Today's big developments
- Tony Blair was on Saturday night accused of a “flagrant” breach of Covid-19 restrictions, after failing to self-isolate for a fortnight after a two-day trip to the US on a private jet.
- Tory grandees are demanding that Boris Johnson urgently sets out an exit strategy from "a constant cycle of lockdowns", as an influential expert on public opinion warned the PM risked appearing "blasé" about the lives of ordinary people.
- The director of a “secretive” government body guiding local lockdowns without publishing its reasoning is at the centre of a hypocrisy row after telling MPs that “transparency is so important”.
- Food wholesalers have warned the Chancellor that their supply chain to hospitals, care homes, schools and prisons is on the brink of collapse due to restrictions on pubs and restaurants.
- Sweden's public health agency will this week start working with regions battling the worst coronavirus outbreaks to bring in local restrictions, as the country toughens its approach to ward off a resurgence in infections.
- Royal Mail is targeting a contract worth almost £800m to spearhead mass home testing for up to two and a half years under Boris Johnson’s “Operation Moonshot”.
Dispute over restrictions between Greater Manchester and No 10 continue
The growing dispute over coronavirus restrictions between Greater Manchester and Downing Street shows no sign of conclusion, with confusion cast over whether or not the parties will meet this weekend to attempt to find a solution.
Earlier this week Andy Burnham, Manchester's Mayor, delivered a potentially fatal blow to the Government's coronavirus strategy, standing outside the Central Library under a banner boldly declaring 'We are open'.
“They are willing to sacrifice jobs and businesses here to try and save them elsewhere,” he said. “Greater Manchester, the Liverpool city region and Lancashire are being set up as the canaries in the coal mine for an experimental regional lockdown strategy”.
The two parties haven't spoken since Thursday, but earlier today No 10 suggested talks have been scheduled for Sunday morning, as both sides come under pressure to come to an agreement over Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions.
But the office for Burnham, who is resisting the highest level of controls without more financial support for workers and businesses, flatly denied a call had been scheduled.
"Nothing has yet been arranged," a spokesman said.
The dispute comes as new controls, including in Lancashire and London, mean 28 million people in England are living under heightened restrictions.
But experts are concerned such measures do not go far enough, and there are growing calls for a national two-week "circuit breaker" lockdown.
Record global increase in cases as 400,000 new infections reported
Global coronavirus cases have risen by more than 400,000 for the first time, a record one-day increase, as much of Europe enacts new restrictions to curb the outbreak.
The continent, which successfully tamped down the first surge of infections, has emerged as the new Covid epicentre in recent weeks, with a on average of more than 140,000 detected every day.
As a region, Europe is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the United States combined.
Of every 100 infections reported around the world, 34 were from European countries, according to a Reuters analysis. The continent is currently reporting a million new infections about every nine days.
But Latin America remains the worst-affected region with about 27 per cent of total Covid-19 cases followed by Asia, North America and Europe.
- Italy 'to close high schools' as second coronavirus wave sweeps Europe
- Sweden considers 'local lockdowns' in shift in coronavirus strategy
- Portugal declares a 'state of calamity' as cases surge ahead of first wave infections
- WHO urges Europe to take swift action, but warns against 'last resort' lockdowns
Here's a quick overview of the major UK developments you should be aware of today.
- Another 16,171 cases have been confirmed across the UK, meaning total infections have now surpassed 700,000.
- Confusion has been cast over lockdown talks between Downing Street and Greater Manchester after mayor Andy Burnham denied No 10's suggestion talks had been arranged to attempt to end the dispute.
- The Mayor of Liverpool has said his brother has died in hospital after being admitted to intensive care with Covid-19.
- Surgeons in Nottingham have been told to cancel some non-urgent operations after facing “rapidly escalating demands” due to coronavirus infections.
- Calls for a two week circuit breaker have grown louder, with former health secretary Jeremy Hunt and testing tsar Sir John Bell both suggesting it will be almost impossible to bring transmission down by "biting around the edges".
- Anti-lockdown campaigners, including Piers Corbyn, marched through London in protest at Government restrictions to curb Covid. Some carried placards blaming the outbreak on the 5G network, others claimed the virus was a hoax.
- Updated Covid-19 guidance for visiting care homes is "confusing" and "encourages blanket bans on visits" in areas under the highest alert levels, a charity has argued.
- The NHS will soon use drones carrying PPE, Covid samples and test kits to transport supplies between NHS hospitals after receiving backing from the UK Space Agency.
The Queen could be called on to help boost the public's trust in a coronavirus vaccine, vaccine misinformation expert Professor Heidi Larson
Scroll down for more updates and for a global overview, head to our post at 3pm.
Watch: Families reunited as Australia - New Zealand travel corridor opens
'I've crunched the numbers - a herd immunity strategy would lead to a lot of deaths'
It sounds tempting to get younger people back to normal but shielding the vulnerable would be a monumental undertaking, writes Conservative MP Neil O'Brien:
How many people would likely die on the way to herd immunity? Well, although younger people are less likely to die of Covid-19, some do, and the isolation of old and ill people could never be complete: some will have to go to hospital or see carers, or live in care homes, or the young people living with them will not fully isolate and they’ll get it.
About eight per cent of people have had the virus so far (call it 10 per cent to be generous) and on the common assumption that we’ve need to get to 60 per cent for herd immunity to work, we’d need around a further 50 per cent of the younger population to get it.
If we look at mortality rates by age and combine them with the age profile of the UK, then if half of younger people got it and only five per cent of pensioners, that would mean around 90,000 deaths.
But if isolation was not so good and 15 per cent of pensioners got it, then around 175,000 people would die of it.
That’s a lot of deaths. But that’s still assuming that healthcare is not overwhelmed, and so all those who needed treatment for Covid could still be able to get it. It’s also assuming there are no non-coronavirus deaths caused by the NHS being overwhelmed.
Read the full piece here.
Schools and universities 'may have to close' during circuit breaker
The UK should impose a two week circuit breaker to "get on top" of a rapid surge in new infections, according to the Government's testing tsar, and closing schools and universities may now be unavoidable.
Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said that coronavirus "numbers are actually pretty eye watering in some parts of the country", and it will be almost impossible to bring transmission down by "biting around the edges".
"I can see very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit breaker," he told BBC Radio Four this morning.
Sir John added that closing schools and universities may now be a necessity.
"I think there will be every effort to keep schools open, but just to paint the picture: there are universities in this country which have 50, 60, 70 per cent of their kids in quarantine. I mean oh my God. What kind of a university is that? This is not a good place to be.
"So if in the end we have to take kids out for two weeks, calm it all down, and then start again, ideally embedded in a much more rigorous testing regime, than that's maybe what we will have to do," he said.
His comments come after Britain's biggest teachers' union backed a circuit breaker and urged that secondary schools and colleges are closed for an extended two-week half-term.
Calls for a two week circuit breaker have been gathering momentum all week, with experts suggesting it is the only way to reduce transmission and "buy time" to fix the UK's faltering test, trace and isolate system - which is having only a "marginal impact on transmission", according to Sage.
A Covid-safe Strictly: Your questions answered
It’s the Strictly launch show tonight (7.50pm on BBC One), kickstarting what is set to be the blockbuster ballroom contest’s strangest series ever. Here Michael Hogan answers 10 of your burning questions... here’s an taster, click here for the full article.
How will the Covid-secure Strictly work?
It’s Strictly, Tess, but not as we know it. Health measures in place to keep the show on-air amid the pandemic mean the major difference will be the look of the Elstree ballroom. There is a reduced studio audience, with fans in bubbles of four, social distancing being practised and plain black face masks mandatory. The judges will sit at separate socially distanced desks. Couples will no longer crowd around co-presenter Claudia Winkleman for interviews but instead perch at cabaret-style tables. Dave Arch’s live band will be slimmed down. Set dressing will be drastically reduced, replaced by “augmented reality” projections.
As for the small matter of the actual dancing?
The professional troupe isolated together, enabling them to practice and pre-record group numbers. Celebrities and their pros will now form support bubbles, so close contact is allowed. No dance style will be off-limits. In terms of themed weeks, the Halloween and Blackpool specials won’t happen this year but Movies and Musicals will.
UK records another 16,171 infections
The latest figures from the Government reveal that, as of 9am on Saturday, a further 16,171 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK:
- It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 705,428.
- The Government also said a further 150 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, as of Saturday. This brings the UK total to 43,579.
- But separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies show there have now been 58,500 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
- Figures from NHS England also show that there were 4,814 Covid-19 patients in hospital in England on Saturday, up from 3,225 a week ago, while 494 were in ventilation beds, up from 396 a week ago.
- A total of 792 patients with confirmed Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in England on Thursday, compared with 513 a week earlier.
Another foreign minister tests for Covid after EU meeting
Earlier today we reported that the foreign minister of Austria has tested positive for Covid after attending a meeting with EU colleagues earlier this week.
It has now emerged that his Belgium counterpart has also been diagnosed with the disease, raising concerns that the gathering may have been a so-called "super-spreader" event.
Austria's Alexander Schallenberg and Belgium's Sophie Wilmes sat next to each other during a group breakfast at the meeting of EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday in Luxembourg, a spokeswoman for Austria's Foreign Ministry said.
"It is suspected that Schallenberg might have been infected at the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday," the spokeswoman said, adding that he did not have symptoms and had been tested as a routine measure.
Wilmes said on Saturday she had tested positive for COVID-19, a day after going into self-isolation with suspected symptoms of the illness.
"Contamination probably occurred within my family circle given the precautions taken outside my home," she said on Twitter, without saying when she might have become infected.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tested negative on Friday and had no close contact with Schallenberg, his ministry said, while Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde will work from home until she receives a negative test result, her department said.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tested negative on Thursday while on a trip to Algeria.
Protesters led by Piers Corbyn march in London
Anti-lockdown campaigners marched through London in protest at Government restrictions aimed at curbing coronavirus.
Led by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's brother Piers, demonstrators chanted "stick your poison vaccine up your arse", "take off your masks" and "we are the 99%" as they walked down Oxford Street.
Some carried placards blaming the virus on the new 5G network, while others claimed the virus itself was a hoax.
The protest comes on the day London was placed in Tier 2 lockdown measures, meaning Londoners are now banned from meeting people from outside their household indoors, and a maximum of six outdoors.
the PA news agency if they were for or against the social media giant, which many have blamed for spreading pandemic misinformation.
The protest later came to a halt in Leicester Square outside the Imax theatre, although it was unclear why as they had originally stated they were heading for Downing Street.
Piers Corbyn, who has previously been fined the maximum £10,000 for his anti-lockdown protests, also took part in a demonstration in Soho on Friday night (see photo below).
"We're here to drink against the curfew," he said.
Another record breaking day in Italy
Italy has registered 10,925 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry announced, up from the previous record of 10,010 cases posted on Friday.
There were also 47 Covid-related deaths, down slightly from 55 the day before and far fewer than at the height of the pandemic in Italy in March and April, when daily fatalities peaked at more than 900.
Italy was the first country in Europe to be slammed by Covid-19 and has the second-highest death toll in the region after Britain, with 36,427 fatalities since the outbreak flared in February.
In response to the latest wave, the government is reportedly considering a nationwide curfew and closing high schools (see 3:25pm)
US: 10 states report record new case counts as Biden slams Trump's response
The pandemic in the US shows no sign of abating. According to CNN, at least ten states reported their highest coronavirus case totals since the pandemic began on Friday.
This includes: Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Meanwhile Joe Biden addressed the outbreak in Wisconsin in a statement released the same day President Trump is scheduled to hold a rally there. The Presidential race is hotting up, with less than three weeks until election day.
Biden said the state is "in the grips of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country," adding that "the sad fact is, it didn’t have to be this way."
He went on to slam President Trump's handling of the pandemic: "President Trump is knowingly downplaying the severity of the virus. At virtually every turn, he has panicked and tried to wish it away, rather than doing the hard work to get it under control."
Taxi drivers asked to snitch on passengers breaching lockdown rules
Taxi drivers have reacted with anger after a police force asked them to snitch on passengers they suspected of beaching lockdown rules.
A letter issued by West Mercia Police to an estimated 300 licensed taxi drivers in Herefordshire has called for drivers to report any incidents of people breaching the 'rule of six'.
Taxi services and industry representatives have criticised the proposal, warning it will place drivers in an “uncomfortable" financial predicament and at greater risk of violent attacks from passengers.
Dave Lawrie, director of The National Private Hire & Taxi Association, said attacks on drivers have already increased during the pandemic with many feeling under pressure to ask that their passengers wear a facemask before travelling.
Mr Lawrie said: “I am painfully aware of the number of attacks that are carried out on drivers on a daily and weekly basis.
“I don’t think it is a good idea to ask taxi drivers to report people breaching Covid regulations, because, if they do that, they are leaving themselves wide open to counter-attack and people coming back to them.”
We have more on this story here.
Where are the UK's coronavirus hotspot?
Italy mulls coronavirus curfew and high school closures
Italy is considering a nationwide curfew and closing high schools after the country reported its highest every daily toll of coronavirus infections as the second wave of the pandemic swept Europe.
New measures were introduced or are expected against the resurgent virus in other European countries as records for infection numbers were broken across the Continent on Saturday.
Italian authorities meet this evening to discuss the measures, which would close cafes and restaurants from 10pm and compel people to return home. More than 10,000 coronavirus infections were reported in Italy on Friday.
Cinemas could be closed and football matches, both professional and amateur, are expected to be banned. Only emergency or essential travel will be allowed, under the new rules, according to media reports in Italy.
The national measures, which include a push to increase working from home, will form a baseline on which regional governments can build, especially if they are in high contagion areas.
Lombardy, Italy's most populous region, has once again become the most affected in the Covid-19 resurgence, adding more than 2,000 infections a day. Hospitals intensive care units are coming under strain.
James Crisp has more on this story here.
Watch: Drones to carry PPE between NHS hospitals
Drones carrying personal protective equipment, coronavirus samples and test kits will soon transport the supplies between NHS hospitals after receiving backing from the UK Space Agency.
Here's a look at the medical drones, created by Apian. Or head to this article for more details.
Here's a quick overview of today's news from across the globe:
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered the biggest election victory for her centre-left Labour Party in half a century as voters rewarded her for a decisive, "go hard, go early" response to Covid-19.
- Countries including Germany, Austria, Poland, Ukraine and Czech Republic reported record daily increases in the number of coronavirus infections.
- But Australia's coronavirus hotspot of Victoria recorded a only single case today - the lowest daily number since early June - and no deaths, with the state's top health official calling the figures "one-der-ful".
- Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has tested positive for Covid and might have caught it at a meeting with his European Union counterparts on Monday, a spokeswoman for his ministry said.
A man living in the same Vatican residence as Pope Francis has tested positive for Covid-19 and gone into isolation, the Vatican said.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has dashed Donald Trump's for a coronavirus vaccine being approved before the election. In an open letter explaining the company said it would not apply for regulatory clearance for its vaccine candidate until the third week of November at the earliest.
For a UK specific update, head to our post at 10:52am - although there are two developments of note to mention since then:
- The Westminister - Manchester showdown has continued. While No 10 indicated that a call had been arranged for Sunday morning to resolve the row, the Manchester Mayor's camp insisted "nothing has yet been arranged" (more at 2:22pm).
- The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has said his brother has died after being admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 (see 12:20pm post).
US: 1,000 CDC employees criticise 'politicised' Covid response
In the United States, more than 1,000 current and former officers from a disease-fighting program at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) have put their names to an open letter criticising the US response to Covid-19.
The Wall Street Journal reported last night that the employees spoke out against the "politicisation" of the organisation. While known as one of the preeminent public health agencies in the world, the CDC's reputation has taken a major hit during the pandemic.
Typically, the CDC would be at the forefront of any US response to a public health crisis. But during Covid the agency has been largely sidelined by the Trump administration, with the White House reportedly interfering with CDC reports and attempting to control messaging.
Some experts have accused the CDC leadership of bowing to political pressure on a range of issues, from vaccines to face masks.
The letter, signed by past and present officers from the Epidemic Intelligence Service program, warned that "the absence of national leadership on Covid-19 is unprecedented and dangerous."
"Inconsistent contact tracing efforts are confined within each state’s borders — while coronavirus infections sadly are not. Such chaos is what CDC customarily avoided by its long history of collaboration with state and local health authorities in developing national systems for disease surveillance and coordinated control.
"CDC should be at the forefront of a successful response to this global public health emergency," it added.
Deaths in English hospitals rise by 86
The number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and died in hospital has risen by 86 in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 30,910.
NHS England said that the patients were aged between 44 and 99. All but two patients, aged 62 and 79, had known underlying health conditions.
The deaths were between September 16 and October 16.
Westminster - Manchester clash continues
Earlier this week the Government's flagship coronavirus strategy was thrown into disarray after Andy Burnham refused to accept extra restrictions on Manchester, accusing Westminster of treating the North like “canaries in the coal mine for an experimental regional lockdown strategy.”
And there's no resolution in sight.
While No 10 indicated that a call had been arranged for Sunday morning to resolve the row, the Mayor's camp has denied this.
"Nothing has yet been arranged," Burnham's spokesman said.
At least 48 hours have passed since there was any discussion between Downing Street and leaders in Greater Manchester.
Wales: 674 cases and five deaths reported
There have been a further 674 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 34,679.
Public Health Wales said five further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,708.
'Health passport' to be tested on flights out of UK next week
Digital “health passports” are to be tested on flights out of the UK for the first time next week under a plan to cut quarantine and enable Covid-safe air travel.
Britons flying from Heathrow to Newark Liberty International Airport, a major airport in the New York Metropolitan area, will be among the first in the world to travel using the digital health document.
UK travellers will be screened for Covid-19 at Heathrow’s testing facility up to 72 hours before travel and will complete health questionnaires required by US border authorities.
Results will be stored on the Commonpass smartphone app, which can be scanned by airlines and border officials to check that the passengers are Covid-free.
If trials are successful, the scheme could allow passengers to reduce their time in quarantine.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this week unveiled two potential approaches to reducing quarantine times for UK travellers – a test a week after arriving in the country, with release from quarantine with a negative results, and a “trailblazer” system where tests and isolation take place prior to travel.
Find out more over on our travel liveblog.
UN chief: A divided world is failing Covid-19 test
A divided world has failed to rise to the challenge of fighting the pandemic, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said today, warning that without concerted action millions of people would be pushed into poverty and hunger.
The former Portuguese prime minister said far more could have been done if countries had worked together to combat the disease, which has now killed more than one million people.
"The Covid-19 pandemic is a major global challenge for the entire international community, for multilateralism and for me, as secretary-general of the United Nations," Guterres told Portuguese news agency Lusa.
"Unfortunately it is a test that, so far, the international community is failing."
Guterres also criticised countries for a lack of unity in trying to solve other global challenges including the conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria. "It is a source of enormous frustration," he said.
Could the Queen help boost trust in vaccines?
The Queen could be called on to help boost the public's trust in a coronavirus vaccine, a Government adviser has suggested.
Vaccine misinformation expert Professor Heidi Larson said she feared that people's concerns about vaccine safety were not being addressed, which could result in them not taking it.
It comes as scientists warned that a working Covid-19 vaccine "might not be enough" to end the pandemic unless governments and technology firms tackle coronavirus misinformation.
In an interview with The Times, Prof Larson, who leads the Vaccine Confidence Project, said the Queen could help build trust in the older generation.
"If there's one thing I've seen, and I've been here (in the UK) for over a decade now, it's the trust that she (the Queen) gets," she said. "And she's certainly in that older cohort, so I think that's actually really, really smart."
Prof Larson said the "big question" would be whether the Queen, who is aged 94, would get a vaccine.
"I think the palace is going to have to decide for themselves - do you want to risk a new vaccine on the Queen? Or do you want to keep her isolated? They're going to have to weigh those risks."
Today in photos
Here's a look at life during the pandemic across the globe:
Non-urgent surgeries cancelled in Nottingham
Surgeons in Nottingham have been told to cancel some non-urgent operations after facing “rapidly escalating demands” due to coronavirus infections.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said the city is facing a “serious situation” following a rise in cases in the region, which has forced them to postpone some non-urgent procedures.
In a message sent to staff on Friday, Nottingham University Hospitals Trust’s medical director and chief nurse said the action was needed “to create capacity for emergency patients”, according to The Independent.
The message also raised concerns about nosocomial spread within the hospital, in which patients test positive for Covid-19 following admission.
It follows a recent analysis by the University of Oxford, which found up to a quarter of patients in hospital with Covid-19 had caught the virus following admission.
Lizzie Roberts has more here.
Israel eases lockdown rules as infection rate falls to lowest level in three months
Israel has announced it will ease lockdown measures after a significant decline in the rate of coronavirus infections.
As of Sunday, restaurants will be allowed to offer takeaway food and Israelis will no longer be banned from traveling beyond a 1,000 yard radius of their home for non-essential reasons.
Beaches and nature reserves will reopen to the public and nurseries will be allowed to operate, though most schools and public-facing businesses will remain closed.
There are also plans to reopen the Western Wall and the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Holy City.
"As of now, the lockdown has been a major success. We are seeing a decline in all data, a clear and consistent decline," Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers as the new, relaxed rules were agreed.
Israel's second lockdown was imposed in mid-September as the rate of infection soared to some 9,000 cases per day (see chart). Mr Netanyahu admitted at the time that he had reopened the country's economy too quickly.
James Rothwell has more on this story here.
Watch: Jacinda Ardern claims victory in New Zealand elections
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said her centre-left Labour Party won a mandate in today's general election to lead the country for a second term and accelerate its response to Covid-19.
Ardern told supporters after her landslide victory, "New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in almost 50 years."
"We will not take your support for granted. And I can promise you we will be a party that governs for every New Zealander," she said.
Voters rewarded Ardern's centre-left Labour for its decisive response to Covid-19. Labour was on track to win 64 of the 120 seats in the country's unicameral parliament, the highest by any party since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996.
If Labour wins more than half the seats, Ardern could form the first single-party government under the current system.
The mandate means Ardern, 40, could form the first single-party government in decades, and face the challenge of delivering on the progressive transformation she promised but failed to deliver in her first term, where Labour shared power with a nationalist party.
Watch the highlights from Ardern's victory speech below:
Slovakia reports second-highest daily tally of cases
Slovakia has reported its second-highest daily toll of new Covid-19 cases, the Health Ministry announced today, as the country battles a growing second wave of infections.
Eleven people also died from the disease yesterday, the highest number of fatalities reported in a 24-hour period, the ministry said. Six more deaths took place on Saturday, bringing the country's death toll to 88.
The country of 5.5 million people came through the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic with one of Europe's lowest infection rates, but the number of cases has jumped this month.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic today announced that the government has ordered up to 13 million so-called antigen tests, which produce faster results but are often less accurate than standard PCR tests, and aimed to launch blanket testing in the country.
On Thursday, daily cases topped 2,000 for the first time and totalled 1,968 on Friday, the second-highest tally for a single day.
Local officials have warned that the situation could become similar to that of the neighbouring Czech Republic, where Europe's biggest per capita spike in infections has strained hospital capacity.
Liverpool: Mayor's brother dies from Covid-19
The Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has said his brother has died after being admitted to intensive care with Covid-19.
On Friday evening, Mr Anderson urged people to follow the rules to prevent the spread of the virus as he revealed his eldest brother was in a "very serious condition" in hospital in the city.
"Despite the efforts of all the staff @LivHospitals ICU my brother sadly died at 10.45 last night," Anderson wrote today on Twitter.
"We want to thank the dedicated staff risking their lives for us. Thank you all for your messages of love and support Let’s stick together and support each other and win this battle"
Despite the efforts of all the staff @LivHospitals ICU my brother sadly died at 10.45 last night We want to thank the dedicated staff risking their lives for us.Thank you all for your messages of love and support Let’s stick together and support each other and win this battle💙❤️— Joe Anderson (@mayor_anderson) October 17, 2020
Dutch Royals abandon holiday to Greece after uproar at home
The Dutch royal couple have landed in hot water this week over a holiday to Greece, while people in the Netherlands have been urged to stay at home as much as possible.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima said in a statement that they saw the reactions of people, "which are intense, and they touch us." As a result they said they would cancel the rest of their vacation.
"Let there be no doubt: To beat the Covid-19 virus it is necessary to follow the rules. The discussion caused by our vacation does not contribute to that."
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the Netherlands has more than doubled over the past two weeks, to 42 cases per 100,000 people on Friday.
Dutch bars and restaurants were closed as of Wednesday as part of a partial lockdown that will last at least four weeks to counter the sustained surge in coronavirus cases across the Netherlands.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the nation needed to move a step closer to a full lockdown because otherwise hospitals would become so overburdened that people with other urgent needs would be unable to get treatment.
"We have to be tougher on ourselves," Rutte said in an address to the nation. A royal vacation during the partial lockdown countered such advice.
"The vacation shows the wide gap between the king and society," headlined the public broadcaster NOS.
Moody's downgrades UK credit rating
The UK's credit rating has been downgraded by one of the big three ratings agencies.
Moody’s cited weak economic growth and other factors for its decision to lower Britain's grade by one notch to Aa3 - its fourth-highest ranking.
The pandemic has blown a big hole in the public finances, with the Government spending billions to support jobs and prop up an economy that has already suffered its biggest quarterly contraction on record.
The pandemic has pushed the national debt above £2 trillion, or more than 100pc of GDP.
“Even before the coronavirus-induced shock, a combination of persistently low productivity growth since the global financial crisis, tepid business investment since the June 2016 EU referendum, and prolonged uncertainty over the eventual future trading relationship with the EU were weighing on the UK’s growth performance,” Moody’s said.
Chris Johnston has more on this story here.
In numbers: Covid across the globe
Official coronavirus figures from several countries have been rolling in this morning - most painting a worrying picture. Here's an overview:
- Iran's coronavirus death toll has risen by 253 to 30,123, the health ministry said today, as the number of confirmed cases spiked to 526,490 in the hardest-hit Middle Eastern country. The country is in the throes of a third wave of infections.
Ukraine registered a record 6,410 cases in the past 24 hours, up from a previous record of 5,992 reported on Friday. The national security council added that 109 patients had died in the past 24 hours, the highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic.
The Czech Republic, facing Europe's biggest surge in new coronavirus infections per capita, reported 11,105 Covid-19 cases on Friday, its largest single-day tally so far of the pandemic, new health data revealed today. The total number of cases the country has detected since March has risen to 160,112, double the number seen on Oct. 2 and more than six times the amount overall before September.
Malaysia has reported 869 new cases, its highest daily count so far, health authorities said. The Southeast Asian country, which has imposed targeted lockdowns this month as infections surged, has had a total of 19,627 infections.
Poland reported a record 9,622 new infections, according to health ministry data published on Twitter, as fitness workers gathered in the capital to protest against fresh restrictions to fight the pandemic.
Austria's daily tally of new cases has surpassed 2,000 for the first time, surging to a new record, newspaper Kronen Zeitung reported. It comes as the country's Foreign Minister tested positive for the virus.
World 'must act now' over plight of Al Hol camp children, warn charities
Children of British Isil brides may not make it through the winter in disease-ridden Syrian refugee camps, where The Telegraph has learnt they are living in tents frequently submerged in several feet of filthy water.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for governments to do more to rescue children stuck in the camps after their mothers travelled abroad to join Islamic State.
It said the fate of thousands of women and children stranded in horrendous conditions has to be more of a priority for countries.
The call came as a London NHS nurse told how she fears her grandchildren will not survive the winter if the Government fails to take urgent steps to bring them home from the squalid Al-Hol camp, where at least eight other children have died in recent weeks.
Charleen Jack-Henry said ministers had a duty of care towards those children who, like her own grandchildren, had been dragged to war zones against their will or understanding by Britain’s Isil brides.
Patrick Sawer has the full story in this must-read article.
India: Frontline workers, elderly and those with commodities to receive vaccine first
Meanwhile in India, more than 62,000 new coronavirus infections were reported in the last 24 hours (see chart), while the government is reported to have started identifying roughly 300 million people who would be first in line when a vaccine is ready.
The Times of India said that frontline health and sanitation workers, police officials and elderly people with co-morbidities will be prioritised.
The plan, which is still in the draft stage, aims to cover 23 per cent of the population in the first phase. The final plan is likely to be ready by end October-November, the report said.
The selected individuals will be given an estimated 600 million doses. Earlier this month, health minister Harsh Vardhan had said that India hopes to receive up to 500 million doses of coronavirus vaccines by July next year to inoculate about 250 million people.
Officials have said that giving the vaccine to India’s 1.3 billion people will be a mammoth exercise, likely to stretch well into 2022.
Drones - the future of NHS logistics?
Drones carrying personal protective equipment, coronavirus samples and test kits will soon transport the supplies between NHS hospitals after receiving backing from the UK Space Agency.
Here's a look at the medical drones, created by Apian. Or head to this article for more details.
US surpasses 8 million cases - but 'worst is yet to come'
Overnight, the United States has reported another 69,156 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, pushing the country over the eight million mark.
In total, 8,048,865 infections have been reported across the country, including at least 218,575 deaths (see chart). Experts say these figures are likely to be underestimates, particularly the case count, due to patchy access to testing.
But CNN has reported that an influential modeller believes the worst is still yet to come - a sharp contrast to Donald Trump, who insisted at a rally in Florida on Friday that the pandemic is "rounding the turn."
“No, it's not over,” said Dr Chris Murray, director of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “The worst is still to come unfortunately.”
“We expect the death toll, unfortunately, unless we change our behavior, is going to reach 390,000 deaths by February 1,” Dr Murray added, citing IHME’s recent predictions.
Watch: Police break up crowds in London ahead of Tier 2 restrictions
Your morning update
Just joining us? Here are the UK developments to be aware of so far today:
Downing Street is being urged to restart talks with Greater Manchester's political leaders over the highest levels of coronavirus restrictions, amid warnings of rising deaths.
But No 10 is understood to have not yet scheduled further talks for the weekend and mayor Andy Burnham said there had been no meetings since Thursday morning. Shadow education secretary Kate Green called for an end to the "blame game" and for discussions to resume to get the region an adequate support package.
Boris Johnson was also under renewed pressure on Saturday to impose a short national lockdown known as a circuit-breaker to slow Covid-19's resurgence. Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of medicine at Oxford University, and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt have both signaled support for the measures.
Tier 2 measures have come into force today in London, Essex, York, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, North East Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield, meaning people can no longer mix inside with those from other households, including in pubs and restaurants.
As of 6pm last night, Wales also banned people entering from Tier 2 or 3 areas in England, as well as the central belt of Scotland and the whole of Northern Ireland.
Sir John, who advises the government on testing, also said it is "possible" to get to one million coronavirus tests a day by Christmas, but there are significant logistical challenges.
This comes after Mr Johnson said the UK is developing the capacity to manufacture millions of fast-turnaround tests which could deliver results in just 15 minutes.
'Bengali Mountaineer' scales Europe's highest peak days after recovering from mild Covid
Akke Rahman, an office manager from Oldham, wasn't going to let a rapidly expiring visa or a positive coronavirus diagnosis from climbing Europe's tallest mountain.
The 38-year-old, a former amateur athlete, only took up mountaineering last year to maintain his fitness. After climbing Mount Snowdon in Wales last June, he decided his next adventure would be climbing Mount Elbrus in Russia.
Last September he began the climb, but weather forced him to abandon the attempt. He booked again earlier this year but plans to reach Russia were repeatedly scuppered by restrictions caused by the pandemic, confusion over travel arrangements and finally, last month, his own positive Covid test - though his symptoms remained mild.
After two negative tests he was finally able to fly to Russia, but the repeated delays meant that when he arrived in the country last week, he only had three days left on his visa.
It meant that he had to complete the hike, which normally takes several days, in no more than two. In the end, Mr Rahman (who describes himself as the Bengali Mountaineer) needed just one:
"We just went for it and that was it," he told PA. "We just walked and walked and walked and walked."
Mr Rahman is raising money for the Global Relief Fund, to support its efforts in Lebanon following the explosion earlier this year. Find out more about his feat here.
'Every day counts', Merkel warns Germans
Angela Merkel has urged Germans to curb social contacts and keep travel to a minimum, making a personal appeal after the federal and state governments struggled to agree on a strategy to contain a second wave of infections.
"We have to do everything to prevent the virus from spreading out of control. Every day counts," the Chancellor said in her weekly video podcast.
While Germany's infection rates have been lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating and hit a daily record high of 7,830 on Saturday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infections diseases (see chart). The reported death toll rose by 33 to 9,767.
But, much like the UK, German leaders were unable this week to reach a consensus on strong new measures to contain the second Covid-19 wave. Courts in several regions have, meanwhile, overturned bans on hotel stays for visitors from infection hotspots.
Politicians and health experts have appealed to the population to take voluntary measures over and above those already prescribed - including wearing masks, avoiding close contact with others and hand washing.
"We have to go further," Merkel said. "I appeal to you: Meet with fewer people, either at home or outside. Please forsake any journey that is not absolutely essential, every party that is not absolutely essential. Stay at home, where at all possible."
Watch again: Boris Johnson urges Manchester Mayor to impose restrictions
During yesterday's Downing Street press conference, Boris Johnson attempted to call Andy Burham's bluff. He warned that unless the Manchester Mayor's position shifted soon, he would be responsible for a surge in hospitalisations and deaths in the city.
“I must stress that the situation in greater Manchester is grave,” the Prime Minister said. “Each day that passes without action means more people will go to hospital, more people will end up in intensive care and tragically more people will die.
“So I urge the Mayor to reconsider and to engage constructively.”
Earlier this week Andy Burnham accused the government of treating the North like “canaries in the coal mine for an experimental regional lockdown strategy.”
Here's a reminder of this week's biggest clash:
Swiss yodellers blamed for worst supercluster in Europe
To the Swiss, it is a source of huge national pride, an age-old practice in which singers take a deep breath and belt out warbling tunes across the mountains.
Now, however, yodelling is being blamed on creating the worst Covid supercluster in Switzerland and perhaps, experts say, Europe.
Scientists have pointed the finger at a yodel “musical” attended by 600 fans in late September in the rural Schwyz canton (region), in which concert-goers respected social distancing but were not required to wear masks.
"We can't do anything about what happened with this yodelling group. We found out nine days after the performances that several people from the group were infected," event organiser Beat Hegner told RTS public television.
Now the pandemic has swept through the region, with 1,238 cases compared with just 500 in mid-September. On Wednesday alone, 94 people tested positive, twice as many as the day before. The canton has become Switzerland’s worst Covid zone, with an infecting rate of 408 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Henry Samuel has more details on this story here.
'It's better to do things quickly and decisively', says Jeremy Hunt
Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt indicated support for a national circuit-breaker lockdown and called for an end to the public war of words over local restrictions.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I've always thought that it's better to do things quickly and decisively than to wait until the virus has grown so I have a lot of sympathy with that."
"But I think more important right now is we stop this public war of words between local leaders and national leaders because in a pandemic the most important thing is a consistent message because you really have to have compliance with the very, very important public health messages about social distancing.
"And if local leaders and national leaders are saying different things, it's incredibly damaging.
"I really do urge Andy Burnham and other local leaders to have these arguments, and I'm sure they're very fierce arguments and I'm sure there's some justification for some of their concerns, but have those arguments in private not in public because that's so damaging to the national fight against the virus."
Down under: Jacinda Arden on track for landslide victory after Covid success
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is on track for a landslide victory, which and could see the Labour Party form the first single-party government in decades.
Labour had 50.5 per cent of the votes, ahead of the opposition National Party of Judith Collins at 25.8 per cent, the Electoral Commission said, with 30 per cent of ballots counted in the election that was largely a referendum on Ardern's aggressive handling of Covid-19.
The election was delayed by a month after a cluster of new cases was detected in Auckland, leading to a second lockdown in the country's largest city. But the move has been seen positively, as part of a "go hard, go early" approach to the coronavirus which has eliminated locally spread Covid-19 in the nation.
The approach has bolstered Ardern's reputation internationally, though she had already won global acclaim for her handling of a mass shooting last year by a white supremacist in Christchurch, with her inclusive "be strong, be kind" mantra and swift action to ban guns.
Piers Corbyn joins party-goers to 'drink against curfew' in central London
Piers Corbyn was among those who gathered outside bars in Soho last night to "drink against curfew," ahead of Tier 2 restrictions coming into force across the capital.
A small protest against the new measures was staged in Soho. Some revellers in the central London hub were led away in handcuffs as police acted to disperse crowds shortly after 10:30pm.
The brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also joined the protests. Piers Corbyn has previously been arrested and fined £10,000 for breaching coronavirus regulations.
"We're here to drink against curfew," he said. "To oppose the lockdowns, to oppose job losses caused by lockdowns, to oppose all of it. The whole lot should be lifted now."
Austria: Foreign Minister tests positive, may have caught Covid during EU meeting
Austria's Foreign Minister, Alexander Schallenberg, has tested positive for Covid-19, with a spokeswoman suggesting he may have caught it at a meeting with his European Union counterparts on Monday.
Schallenberg's infection raises the prospect that the EU Foreign Affairs Council was a so-called super-spreader event. His Belgian counterpart Sophie Wilmes said on Friday she was going into self-isolation with suspected symptoms.
"It is suspected that Schallenberg might have been infected at the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday," the spokeswoman said, adding that he did not have symptoms and had been tested as a routine measure.
Schallenberg also attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday but cabinet members wore face masks, the spokeswoman said. Austria's cabinet had a scare less than two weeks ago when a close colleague of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's tested positive.
"As a precautionary measure all members of the government will be tested on Saturday," the spokeswoman added.
Drones to carry Covid test kits between hospitals
Drones carrying personal protective equipment and coronavirus test kits will soon transport the supplies between NHS hospitals after receiving backing from the UK Space Agency.
Apian, which was founded by NHS staff, aims to establish a network of secure air corridors for electric drones.
Using the drones to help in the Covid-19 response will avoid courier call-out waiting times, free up NHS staff, reduce unnecessary physical contact and minimise the risk of secondary transmission of the virus.
Christopher Law, from Apian, said: "Covid-19 has highlighted challenges in NHS supply chain logistics.
"There has never been a better time to create a faster, more dependable and environmentally friendly method of transporting medical supplies.”
PM 'won't hit 500,000 tests a day'
Boris Johnson is unlikely to keep his promise to reach 500,000 coronavirus tests a day within a fortnight unless ministers "massage the figures", the body representing NHS laboratories has warned.
The Prime Minister has pledged to increase testing capacity to half a million tests a day by October 30 amid deepening concern over the country's failing Test and Trace system.
However, Allan Wilson, the president of the Institute of Biomedical Science, which represents NHS laboratories processing tests across the UK, said he saw "no signs" that the target could be met.
More than 60,000 cases in 24 hours in India
India reported 62,212 new cases in the past 24 hours, raising its total to more than 7.4 million and continuing a downward trend.
The Health Ministry on Saturday also registered 837 fatalities, taking the death toll to 112,998.
The worst-hit western Maharashtra state accounted for nearly 36 per cent of total fatalities.
According to the Health Ministry, India's average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of September 9-15, when the virus peaked.
It is recording an average of around 70,000 cases daily this month.
Some experts say India's figures may not be reliable because of poor reporting and inadequate health infrastructure.
Community transmission risk 'basically eliminated'
Qingdao, a coastal city in eastern China, has completed coronavirus testing for its 11 million residents following an outbreak - and has found no new infections.
As of Friday, the 10.9 million samples came back negative.
Xue Qingguo, Qingdao's deputy mayor, told state broadcaster CCTV that the risk of community transmission "is basically eliminated".
The city-wide testing was ordered after 13 people were infected in China's first locally transmitted cases in more than two months.
The source of the outbreak was traced to two dock workers who had tested positive for the virus in September but did not exhibit any symptoms. They had visited a hospital in Qingdao and were sent to a CAT scan room, which was not disinfected properly after and led to the infection of other patients, according to health officials.
Health Commission director Sui Zhenhua and Deng Kai, president of Qingdao's thoracic hospital to which the cases have been linked, have been placed under investigation in connection with the outbreak.
On Saturday, the National Health Commission reported 13 new imported cases. China has reported 4,634 deaths among 85,659 confirmed cases.
Why the Test and Trace system is failing
It was sold to the country as a vital line of defence against Covid-19 – a state-of-the-art operation to stop the virus before it had a chance to spread.
Ministers promised that the new £12 billion NHS Test and Trace programme would keep the virus at bay over the winter, allowing people to carry on their daily lives without fear of another lockdown.
"We have growing confidence that we will have a test, track and trace operation that will be world-beating and yes, it will be in place by June 1," Boris Johnson said in May.
More than five months later, Covid cases are surging again, and this week the Government's Sage committee issued its verdict – NHS Test and Trace is not working.
Read the full story here.
Man faces life in prison over large cocaine haul
Covid-19 border restrictions have not prevented criminal groups trying a range of methods to bring illicit drugs into Australia, according to authorities.
Police Detective Superintendent Geoffrey Turner said: "Organised crime groups and their associates are taking bigger risks and looking to move more illicit goods in bulk as a result of global lockdowns."
A Sydney man is facing life in prison after Australian police intercepted cocaine worth A$248 million (£136 million) concealed in frozen fruit products from Brazil.
The Australian Federal Police and Border Force officers seized 552kg (1,214 pounds) of the drug hidden in pallets of banana pulp and branded with koala pictures in Sydney on Friday.
Last night of freedom in France
Millions of French people enjoyed a last night of freedom on Friday before a Covid-19 curfew in Paris and other large cities came into force at midnight - for a least a month - prompted by an alarming surge in new cases.
The curfew aims to keep about 20 million people home from 9pm to 6am from Saturday. That's 30 per cent of the French population.
It was ordered by President Emmanuel Macron this week as the number of new infections and deaths raised the spectre of hospital overloads like those seen in March and April.
Health authorities on Friday recorded more than 25,00 new cases, after Thursday's record of more than 30,000.
A total of 122 people were said to have died of the virus in 24 hours.
The mood in the streets of Paris ahead of the curfew was something akin to New Year 's Eve, with tables overflowing in bars and the sound of laughter in the air.
Salem dissuades Halloween visitors during pandemic
The mayor of the Massachusetts city famous for its 1692 witch trials says anyone planning a trip to Salem this month to celebrate Halloween needs to cancel their plans.
Even though the city has cancelled a month-long series of publicly sponsored events held each October that typically draw tens of thousands of visitors, many people are still flooding the city streets and increasing the risk of spreading coronavirus.
Mayor Kim Driscoll advised people on Friday: "If you're not in Salem yet and are thinking about coming, my advice to you is skip it."
Businesses and tourist attractions have been limiting capacity and people are gathering in the streets.
The city is putting several crowd-control measures in place this weekend, including restricting access to a major pedestrian mall, and setting up additional barricades to limit entry lines.
Salem is considered in the moderate-risk category for coronavirus spread, and the Mayor doesn't want to see the city move to the high-risk category.
Teachers call for 'circuit-breaker' and two-week half term
Britain's biggest teachers' union has backed a "circuit-breaker" lockdown and called for secondary schools and colleges to be closed for an extended two-week half term.
The intervention by the National Education Union comes amid sustained pressure on Boris Johnson from Labour, Government scientific advisers and the NHS for the reintroduction of draconian nationwide restrictions.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, the Prime Minister said he wanted to avoid such measures, but "cannot rule anything out".
Read the full story here.
A million little heartbreaks
By any measure, the UK’s Covid-19 statistics are devastating.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, the number of confirmed cases across the country has passed 689,257, while the total number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is more than 43,429.
But what these figures don’t reflect are the harmful side-effects of the severe restrictions imposed to stop Covid’s spread – illnesses undiagnosed, life-saving treatments cancelled, babies born alone, careers stopped in their tracks, families cracking under the strain.
Could the full human cost of this pandemic be even higher than the horrifying death count suggests?
Today's top stories
- Britain's biggest teachers' union has backed a "circuit-breaker" lockdown and called for secondary schools and colleges to be closed for an extended two-week half term
- Couples who do not live together will not be allowed to have any physical contact with each other in many parts of England, Downing Street has confirmed
- Boris Johnson has held back from imposing harsh Covid restrictions on Manchester amid concerns that police will not adequately enforce them without the support of the city's Mayor
When Boris Johnson announced his three-tier approach to local lockdowns on Monday he promised it would provide much-needed clarity and hand local leaders a stake in decision making - but just four days later, the Government’s new strategy was already at risk of unravelling
Yodelling is being blamed on creating the worst Covid supercluster in Switzerland and perhaps, experts say, Europe
What the UK’s Covid-19 statistics don’t reflect are the harmful side-effects of the severe restrictions imposed to stop Covid’s spread – illnesses undiagnosed, life-saving treatments cancelled, babies born alone, careers stopped in their tracks, families cracking under the strain. Could the full human cost of this pandemic be even higher than the horrifying death count suggests?