Gare Du Nord railway station in Paris looking busy amid second wave fears - Bloomberg
Gare Du Nord railway station in Paris looking busy amid second wave fears – Bloomberg
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

France’s Prime Minister is urging his compatriots to wear masks more but insisted today that rising coronavirus infections across the country are “nothing to panic about” and that it’s time for people to get back to work and school and to “cultivating themselves.”

France is now reporting more than 25 positive virus tests per 100,000 people, up from five per 100,000 a month ago. Neighboring countries are requiring quarantines for visitors from parts or all of France.

There has also been a small but steady uptick in the number of Covid-19 in intensive care, though the situation is far from the crisis levels facing French hospitals in March and April.

“We are not letting down our guard. The virus is still there,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said on France-Inter radio.

While he acknowledged that wearing a mask all the time is “a little annoying,” Castex urged people protesting mask requirements “to think of others, hospital workers, medical workers, vulnerable people. …It’s not because you feel invincible that you can go contaminate others.”

Despite confirmed virus cases rising, the Castex insisted that France needs to return to work and school and avoid “falling into an economic and social crisis that would be much more dangerous than the health crisis.”

Follow the latest updates below.

Table of Contents

12:56 PM

Teaching union advises all secondary school leaders to ask for masks to be worn

A school leaders’ union has recommended all secondary schools ask pupils and staff to wear face coverings in communal spaces, despite Government advice that it is only required for those in local lockdown areas of England.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said ministers were following the “best scientific and medical advice”, adding that it was not necessary for face coverings to be mandatory in all schools across the country.

But in a message to members of school leaders’ union NAHT, general secretary Paul Whiteman said it would be “prudent” for masks to be used more widely.

He criticised the Government for “pass(ing) the buck” to secondary schools and colleges, who have been given the discretion to require masks if social distancing cannot be safely managed.

“Once again, many school leaders will feel as though the Government has passed the buck and handed the difficult decision over to them,” he said.

“We will continue to lobby the Government to take a clear and unambiguous line on this.

“In the meantime, NAHT’s advice is that it would be prudent for secondary schools to ask pupils and staff to wear face coverings in corridor and communal spaces unless there is a compelling reason not to.

“Erring on the side of caution would seem a sensible approach to take given the information coming out of the WHO (World Health Organisation).”

12:41 PM

Kenya extends nationwide curfew

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta has extended a nationwide curfew by 30 days in a bid to contain the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

Kenyatta said in a televised address he had also extended the closure of bars and nightclubs for 30 days, while he increased the number of people allowed to attend events such as weddings and funerals.

12:34 PM

PM: No generation of pupils has ever done anything like this

Boris Johnson also thanked pupils for their efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19.

“We have the number of deaths way down, we have the number of hospital admissions way, way down and it’s thanks to you and your sacrifice that we have protected the NHS and saved literally tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lives,” he said.

“No previous generation of pupils has ever done anything like this.”

Now, he said, “the risk to your health is not from Covid because, after all, statistically speaking, your chances of suffering from that disease are very, very low”.

“The greatest risk you face now is of continuing to be out of school.”

12:28 PM

PM blames ‘mutant algorithm’ for exam results fiasco

Boris Johnson, addressing pupils at a school in the East Midlands, blamed a “mutant algorithm” for the A-level and GCSE results fiasco.

The Prime Minister – who was forced into a U-turn over the way results were awarded – said: “I’m afraid your grades were almost derailed by a mutant algorithm.

“I know how stressful that must have been for pupils up and down the country.

“I’m very, very glad that it has finally been sorted out.”

12:27 PM

Virgin media to launch budget broadband plan for struggling Britons

Virgin Media is to launch an essential broadband plan aimed at those facing financial difficulty sparked by the Covid-19 crisis.

The budget service, which will be offered to those receiving Universal Credit, will cost £15 per month and have no fixed-term contract length.

Customers will receive a limited speed of 15 Mbps, designed to help the most vulnerable stay online and apply for jobs during uncertain times.

People taking up the broadband-only plan will have to provide proof of their Universal Credit status.

Virgin Media Essential Broadband will be available from the autumn, initially for the company’s existing customers.

When the account holder is no longer receiving Universal Credit they can continue using the service at £23 per month or move to another package, the firm said.

12:20 PM

Ukraine imposes ban on foreigners entering country

Ukraine has imposed a temporary ban on most foreigners from entering the country until September 28 and extended lockdown measures until the end of October to contain a recent surge in coronavirus cases, Reuters reports.

Speaking at a televised cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal also said the government would need to take a decision on Thursday on whether to ban major public events in September.

12:15 PM

Victoria govt under pressure after proposing 1 year extension to state of emergency powers

The premier of Australia’s hardest-hit state Daniel Andrews has come under fire for his attempts to extend the local State of Emergency by another 12 months, which would allow his government to prolong or reimpose lockdowns over that period, Marcus Parekh reports.

Victoria, currently in the middle of a strict six-week lockdown, has registered 438 of the country’s 549 deaths.

However, critics in Scott Morrison’s federal government say that extending the State of Emergency to September 2021 is “undemocratic”.

“They take away liberties, they take away the functioning of democracy in the state of Victoria,” federal Education Minister Dan Tehan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

State Premier Andrews responded to the criticism, saying that he would exercise restraint by not needlessly extending restrictions and he would use “the lightest touch possible – only what’s necessary and only for so long as it is necessary”.

The current powers, set to expire on September 13, provide the local authority with the legal mechanism to unilaterally introduce stay-at-home orders, alter mass gathering rules, enforce self-isolation for positive cases, and make the wearing of face masks compulsory.

The Victoria government is not looking to extend the State of Disaster powers, which cover the mandatory 8pm curfew and prevent citizens from travelling more than 5km away from their homes.

12:00 PM

Product found in insect repellent could kill coronavirus, military study shows

A product found in insect repellent can kill the strain of coronavirus that causes Covid-19, research by Britain’s defence laboratory has shown.

Sky News is reporting that scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) are sharing their preliminary findings so others are able to conduct further research,

Britain’s armed forces were issued with an insect repellent that contains a product called Citriodiol because it was believed it might offer a new layer of protection against Covid-19, Sky News revealed in April.

Citriodiol is already known to kill other types of coronavirus.

Defence scientists subsequently conducted research to see whether it would provide a protective layer against the virus, with those results being released today.

The company that produces Citriodiol also believed it could offer protection against the coronavirus.

11:54 AM

Watch: Gavin Williamson questioned on government’s latest U-turn over face masks in schools

11:48 AM

Covid cases among American children up by a fifth

The number of Covid-19 cases among American children has risen by a fifth in only a fortnight, as the country weighs how to bring millions back to school, reports Ben Farmer.

Almost 443,000 children have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, CNN reported, citing a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. But more than 74,000 of those, or 21 per cent, were detected in the past 14 days.

Schools across America and Europe are preparing to reopen, bringing relief to many parents, but also causing concerns about how the move will affect the spread of the disease.

“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to Covid-19 is rare among children,” the report notes, but says detailed monitoring is still needed.

11:35 AM

Berlin bans demonstrations planned for weekend

The city of Berlin has banned demonstrations planned for this weekend to oppose measures imposed to stem the coronavirus pandemic, after organisers of a rally earlier this month failed to ensure marchers wore masks and kept their distance.

Andreas Geisel, the Berlin interior senator, said the authorities had to strike a balance between the right to freedom of assembly and the need to protect people against infection.

He said: “We are still in the middle of a pandemic with rising infection figures.”

Germany has managed to keep the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths relatively low compared with some other large European countries, but the number of new daily cases has been rising steadily since early July and has accelerated in recent weeks.

About 20,000 people, including libertarians, constitutional loyalists, far-right supporters and anti-vaccination activists, marched in Berlin on August 1.

Geisel said the organisers of that protest had deliberately broken the rules they had previously accepted in talks with police, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

“Such behaviour is not acceptable. The state cannot be given the runaround,” he said, adding he did not want Berlin to be a stage for conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists.

Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart – cases default

11:25 AM

New probe into church which sold ‘plague protection kits’

The Charity Commission has launched a new inquiry into a south London church which was found to be selling a coronavirus “plague protection kit”.

Bishop Climate Wiseman, head of the Kingdom Church in Camberwell, claimed earlier this year that the £91 small bottle of oil and piece of red yarn would protect people against Covid-19.

Media reports about his claims led to an investigation by the charity watchdog in April, resulting in the link to buy the kits being removed.

But the commission has now launched a new inquiry into the church, which is registered as a charity, over concerns about its management and finances.

The commission said it had examined the charity’s records, and was “concerned” about the accuracy of the information provided with regard to its income and expenditure.

The new probe, which was launched on August 7, will examine the charity trustees’ compliance with their legal duties around its administration, governance and management.

11:09 AM

Ex Formula One tycoon and Covid skeptic seriously ill with virus

11:07 AM

Sweden withdraws advice against unnecessary travel to several countries

Sweden has withdrawn its advise against unnecessary travel to the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Romania.

Sweden earlier withdrew advice against unnecessary trips to Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, the Vatican and Austria.

The foreign ministry in a statement on its website extended its advise against travel to other EU and Schengen countries and Britain through September 9, and to the rest of the world through November 15.

Rising numbers of confirmed cases in some countries are fuelling fears of a resurgence in the spread of Covid-19.

10:58 AM

70pc of Britons do not find the news about Russia’s vaccine comforting

Russia’s announcement of its first coronavirus has led to a lot of skepticism among Britons, according to a poll of 7,000 people by Piplsay.

A majority of respondents (57 per cent) believe Russia approved the “Sputnik V” hurriedly to outrace other countries, while only 16 per cent think they may have genuinely cracked the vaccine.

Another 39 per cent fear that Russia’s announcement may force other governments to fast track and skip critical steps in their vaccine quest.

Perhaps most worryingly, just 66 per cent of Britons are interested in getting a Covid-19 vaccine if one becomes available, while 20 per cent are still unsure.

10:45 AM

Education Select Committee chairman calls for Chris Witty to explain schools face mask change

Robert Halfon, Tory chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, has called for the chief medical officer Chris Whitty to explain the reason the face masks policy has changed in order to reassure parents and pupils.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “I think the chief medical officer, just as he did last Sunday about the risk of school return, or low risks, should put out a letter about the mask policy.

“What exactly it is and why it is and the science behind it, but in a way that ordinary folk can understand it.”

He added: “We just have to concentrate on getting our kids learning again. Whatever has gone on the priority must be to get our kids learning and deal with issues of attainment.

“The department and schools need to get data on how much the left-behind pupils during the coronavirus need to catch up and what the effect of the loss of learning has been.

10:41 AM

Germany to intensify monitoring of returning travellers

Germany wants to intensify its monitoring of returning travellers to make sure they are abiding by quarantine rules, health minister Jens Spahn said today, after data showed more than 40 per cent of new infections were contracted overseas.

Spahn said: “At a time when the number of new infections in Germany is low it is important to prevent that the virus is spread in the country through returning travellers.”

10:33 AM

Telegraph view: Masks in schools is a step too far

In the long term, face covering mission creep will destroy the recovery rather than save it.

Not so long ago, Government scientists were warning that widespread wearing of face coverings could increase the risk of Covid infection. Today, masks are compulsory in ever-greater parts of daily life.

First, they were mandated on public transport, in the anticipation of a crush back onto trains and buses that never materialised. Then, they were made a requirement for those entering shops and other enclosed public spaces, partly with the aim of boosting confidence that it was safe to go out. The rules were subsequently tightened further and extended to cinemas, this time because of fears that the virus was returning. Now it is schools.

The Scottish Government announced yesterday that children in secondary schools will have to wear masks in corridors and other communal spaces, but not in classrooms. Under pressure from the teaching unions and desperate to buttress parental confidence that schools are safe to reopen, England is poised to follow suit.

Read the full piece here.

10:22 AM

Teaching union questions if Government is following science on face coverings

A teaching union has questioned if the Government is following scientific advice or “prioritising political expediency” after a U-turn on face-covering advice for schools in England.

Updated guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) issued on Tuesday said that in areas under local lockdown, face coverings should be worn when moving around corridors and communal areas.

Teaching unions had previously urged clarity on wearing masks and sought reassurance for pupils, staff and parents ahead of schools reopening next week.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “It is deeply regrettable that the Government has failed to heed concerns until the last possible moment.

“The latest announcement on face coverings raises serious questions about whether the Government is seriously following the scientific advice or is simply prioritising political expediency in order to meet the Prime Minister’s wish to ensure that every school reopens fully at the start of term come what may.

“This latest Government U-turn will raise questions about the statement issued by the UK’s chief medical officers last Sunday that there is a low risk of coronavirus transmission in schools.”

10:15 AM

UK to ‘lose £22 billion’ from missing tourists

The UK tourism industry is set to lose over £20 billion amid the “devastating” quarantine policy, according to an industry body.

Travel restrictions could see spending by international visitors fall by 78 per cent and the loss of up to three million jobs, based on the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) forecast.

Each week sees new countries potentially added to the Government’s “red list” if they reach the UK’s safety threshold of 20 cases per 100,000. Switzerland (21.1 cases per 100,000 over the last seven days), the Czech Republic (18.6), Iceland (16.5) and Jamaica (16.5) are this week at risk of being added to the list of nations from which UK arrivals are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Gloria Guevara, chief executive of the WTTC, said that the UK’s “stop-start” quarantine measures needed to be urgently replaced with “rapid, comprehensive and cost-effective test and trace programmes at departure points across the country” to avoid the self-isolation measures.

Follow all the latest on our travel live blog here.

10:07 AM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

Activists of the National Students Union of India take part in a demonstration in front of the NSUI headquarters in New Delhi demanding that the government postpones JEE and NEET, two of India's most competitive exams for entry to top national engineering and medical colleges - AFP
Activists of the National Students Union of India take part in a demonstration in front of the NSUI headquarters in New Delhi demanding that the government postpones JEE and NEET, two of India’s most competitive exams for entry to top national engineering and medical colleges – AFP
Fans attend a heavy metal concert in Beijing, China, but things look a little different than before... - Reuters
Fans attend a heavy metal concert in Beijing, China, but things look a little different than before… – Reuters
Residents from the Remei de Vic district wait in a queue to be tested for coronavirus during a massive PCR screening test being carried out in order to detect asymptomatic cases in Barcelona - Shutterstock
Residents from the Remei de Vic district wait in a queue to be tested for coronavirus during a massive PCR screening test being carried out in order to detect asymptomatic cases in Barcelona – Shutterstock
An Orthodox Jewish man prays inside a dividing pen, set up to ensure social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem's Old City - AFP
An Orthodox Jewish man prays inside a dividing pen, set up to ensure social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem’s Old City – AFP
Stage four coronavirus restrictions are in force across metropolitan Melbourne including an 8pm to 5am curfew, in which people must remain within a 5km radius of their homes and an hourly limit on exercise has been introduced - Shutterstock
Stage four coronavirus restrictions are in force across metropolitan Melbourne including an 8pm to 5am curfew, in which people must remain within a 5km radius of their homes and an hourly limit on exercise has been introduced – Shutterstock

09:56 AM

Thailand delays human testing for coronavirus vaccine

Thailand will delay human trials of its coronavirus vaccine due to limited production capacity at overseas facilities, a senior official said today, but it hopes to resume trials by the end of the year.

Thai health authorities had planned human testing of the vaccine by October, but must delay that by several months as factories abroad are at full capacity, said Kiat Ruxrungtham, director of the Chulalongkorn University vaccine development programme.

The delay will be a setback for Thailand’s push to quickly create its own vaccine and comes as developers worldwide race to complete trials and secure regulatory approval.

A race is on among countries to guarantee a supply amid concern about competition for access, with Britain and the United States in the lead in securing six vaccine deals with drugmakers each.

Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday approved a budget of 1 billion baht ($31.8 million) for vaccines, 60 per cent of which would be invested in Oxford University’s vaccine programme and the remainder in its domestic programme.

Thailand has reported 3,403 confirm cases of the coronavirus and 58 deaths. It has gone without a local transmission for more than three months.

Scorecard: The Oxford Vaccine
Scorecard: The Oxford Vaccine

09:52 AM

Iran’s death toll surpasses 21,000

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by 119 to 21,020, the health ministry’s spokeswoman told state TV today, with the total number of identified cases rising to 365,606.

Sima Sadat Lari said that 2,243 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours in Iran, rising from 2,213 a day earlier.

09:41 AM

How the pandemic has radically altered the flow of money

Covid-19 has upended the world. The New Normal is a 10-part series looking at the stunning ramifications for the world of economics and business. Part three looks at how the pandemic caused households to have lower debts and more cash.

The shift in just a few months has been dramatic. Businesses stuck with bills to pay but no customers have racked up vast debts. The Government backed a series of lending schemes to keep firms alive. Now they have to work out how to repay the funds.

Meanwhile households – in aggregate, if not in every case – have generally racked up surplus cash. By and large jobs have either stayed safe or been rescued by the furlough scheme. Money kept coming in, even as they were denied the opportunity to spend.

The Bank of England has totted up the results: companies borrowed £32bn from banks in March alone, it found – 30 times their usual monthly borrowing. That was driven by big companies making use of credit facilities.

Since then, smaller companies ramped up borrowing, aided by Government-backed loans.

By contrast households are typically much better off. Deposits in bank accounts rose by £17bn per month on average from March to June, more than three times as fast as the usual rate of £5bn.

Read the full analysis by Tim Wallace here.

09:34 AM

Police recorded crime figures during lockdown revealed

Police recorded crime during the coronavirus lockdown was 25 per cent lower in April and 20 per cent lower in May compared with the same period in 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It also fell 5 per cent in March compared with February.

But reports of crime rose as lockdown restrictions began to ease, a report published today said.

In particular, reports of theft fell in April and May to “almost half the level recorded” during those months in the previous year.

However, records of drug offences rose by 22 per cent in April and 44 per cent in May compared with April and May 2019.

This is down to “proactive police activity in pursuing these crimes during lockdown”, the ONS report said.

09:26 AM

Labour urges key workers to stand as councillors at next year’s elections

The Labour Party has issued a call for key workers to get involved in politics and stand for election s as communities rebuild from the coronavirus pandemic.

It is part of Labour’s push to improve the diversity of its elected representatives by encouraging more female, black, Asian and minority ethnic, disabled and LGBTQ+ members to stand as candidates.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner insisted that key workers must be at the heart of decision-making across the country.

“Our key worker heroes have been on the frontline working round the clock to get us through this crisis,” said Ms Rayner.

“They have risen to the challenge during this pandemic, putting their lives on the line to keep our country going and make sure we are all cared for, fed and connected.

“Now we need them to help lead the recovery from this crisis and rebuild our communities and our country in the months and years ahead.

“Our key workers must be at the heart of decision-making across the country, which is why Labour will be supporting key workers who want to get involved in politics and stand for election in the years ahead.”

09:23 AM

JP Morgan and Linklaters signal end of the daily commute for City workers

Two of the City’s most powerful firms have called an end to the daily commute by allowing staff to permanently split their time between home and the office after the Covid crisis.

The world’s biggest investment bank JP Morgan has told staff in London that they will be continuing to work remotely on a part-time basis.

Meanwhile Linklaters, one of London’s elite Magic Circle law firms, said employees will be free to work from home for up to half of the week.

The pair’s decision to abandon the traditional nine-to-five shift will send a chill through the Square Mile, and is likely to spark a response from a raft of rivals keen not to be outdone. A raft of companies such as Britain’s largest fund manager Schroders have already rewritten the rules on office use following the huge success of home working during lockdown.

Fears are growing that many workers will never return to their offices full time – putting the prosperity of central London and Canary Wharf at risk after decades as a global hub and massive investment in millions of square feet of world-class office space.

Michael O’Dwyer and Lucy Burton have more here.

09:14 AM

Japan researchers say ozone effective in neutralising coronavirus

Japanese researchers have said that low concentrations of ozone can neutralise coronavirus particles, potentially providing a way for hospitals to disinfect examination rooms and waiting areas.

Scientists at Fujita Health University told a news conference they had proven that ozone gas in concentrations of 0.05 to 0.1 parts per million (ppm), levels considered harmless to humans, could kill the virus.

The experiment used an ozone generator in a sealed chamber with a sample of coronavirus. The potency of the virus declined by more than 90 per cent when subjected to low level ozone for 10 hours.

“Transmission of the novel coronavirus may be reduced by continuous, low-concentration ozone treatment, even in environments where people are present, using this kind of system,” said lead researcher Takayuki Murata.

“We found it to be particularly effective in high-humidity conditions.”

Ozone, a type of oxygen molecule, is known to inactivate many pathogens, and previously experiments have shown that high concentrations, between 1-6 ppm, were effective against the coronavirus but potentially toxic to humans.

A recent study at the Georgia Institute of Technology showed that ozone may be effective in disinfecting gowns, goggles and other medical protective equipment.

09:06 AM

Philippines reports another high daily case increase

The Philippines’ health ministry has reported 5,277 additional Covid-19 infections, the highest daily increase in 12 days, and 99 more deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had risen to 202,361, more than 60 per cent of which were reported in the past month, while deaths had increased to 3,137.

The Philippines has the largest number of Covid-19 cases in Southeast Asia.

08:57 AM

US rejects UN rights panel upholding access to abortions during pandemic

The United States has hit back at a UN women’s rights panel that said some US states limited access to abortions during the Covid-19 pandemic, rejecting its interference and the notion of “an assumed right to abortion”.

“The United States is disappointed by and categorically rejects this transparent attempt to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to assert the existence of such a right,” the US mission in Geneva said in a release posted on Twitter.

“This is a perversion of the human rights system and the founding principles of the United Nations,” it said, citing an August 11 letter it sent to the UN experts responding to the “spurious allegations”.

The UN working group on discrimination against women and girls said on May 27 that some states “appear to be “manipulating the Covid-19 crisis to curb access to essential abortion care”.

The panel of five independent UN experts said that states including Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee had issued Covid-19 emergency orders suspending procedures not deemed immediately medically necessary to restrict access to abortion.

“This situation is also the latest example illustrating a pattern of restrictions and retrogressions in access to legal abortion care across the country,” Elizabeth Broderick, panel vice-chair, said at the time.

Donald Trump, seeking re-election in November, works closely with evangelical Christians and puts their causes of restricting abortion and preserving gun ownership at the top of his policy agenda.

​Read more: US under fire after claiming UN is using the pandemic as an opportunity to ‘advance abortion’

08:49 AM

Government blasted for making U-turns ‘three days after Nicola Sturgeon’ by 1922 committee vice chair

The Government has been attacked for changing its policies “about three days after Nicola Sturgeon makes a decision”, and without the scrutiny of Parliament by a senior Conservative.

Charles Walker, vice chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs, told Times Radio that “increasing number of my colleagues are now very worried” by the way decisions were being taken without “democratic debate” by those who had been elected to represent constituents.

“The common currency across the Conservative party is that most of us meant to be participating… just end up scratching our heads,” he said. “Thing now seems to be changing on a daily basis, and there is now growing concern that they tend to change about three days after Nicola Sturgeon makes a decision.

“I thought we were the United Kingdom, I thought the Prime Minister was most powerful politician in the land, I thought we had great scientists who we were supposed to be listened to – but none of this seems to count anymore.”

He added: “I am not against Government making big decisions, that is what they are elected to do. But big decisions need to be taken in conjunction with debate… this further shows how excluded we are.”

Follow all the latest on our politics live blog here.

08:42 AM

Myanmar expands Rakhine virus lockdown to cover one million

Myanmar has expanded a lockdown in conflict-wracked Rakhine state to cover four more townships, halting the movement of about one million people as the number of coronavirus cases climbs steadily.

One hundred new infections were confirmed across Myanmar in the last 24 hours – bringing the total to 574 – with the northwestern state registering the bulk.

State capital Sittwe has been under lockdown and an overnight curfew since the weekend, and today the order was extended to four townships elsewhere – Kyaukphyu, An, Taungup and Thandwe.

“People from the said four townships… are to stay only in their homes,” said the order published in state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar, adding that only authorised vehicles would be allowed to provide transport.

Exceptions include civil servants and factory workers, and only one member of each household may step out for essential shopping.

The sharp jump in coronavirus cases comes as the country prepares for elections, raising concerns that the November 8 poll date could be impacted.

08:38 AM

Williamson rules out face coverings in schools being extended further

Gavin Williamson ruled out mandatory requirements for face coverings in schools being extended further.

When asked if the measures could be extended, he told the BBC: “No, no, there’s no intention of extending it beyond that because as both (Dr Jenny Harries) said and (Schools minister Nick Gibb) said is that actually that isn’t what is required.

“But where you’re seeing in local lockdown areas, we recognise the importance in making sure that we maintain education in every part of the country.

“The last thing that we ever want to see close is schools and we need to ensure that all schools are open so that children are able to access our world-class education that we all want to see them benefiting from.”

08:33 AM

Tory MP criticises decision for face coverings in schools

Merriman also criticised the decision requiring pupils to wear face coverings in schools, warning that it was a “slippery slope”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think it’s the right decision because I think we need to send the message out that our schools are safe with the measures that they’ve been taking and will be taking.

“I just absolutely fundamentally feel that young people just need to be able to get on with their education free of any encumbrance.

“Anything that sends a message out that it’s not safe in the corridor means that it can’t be safe in the classroom and we’re on a slippery slope.”

Mr Merriman added: “My concern is that we just keep making this up as we go along. So, the WHO (World Health Organisation) is not explicit about schools at all, it just states that they should reflect the national picture.

“Why is it that we’re changing it right now when we haven’t been talking about this before?”

08:24 AM

Politicians should stop ‘hiding behind the science’, says Tory MP

Tory MP Huw Merriman told the BBC: “I think the Government needs to get a grip of our scientists. I’m sick and tired, and I think many people in the public are sick and tired, the science just changes.

“So that’s fine and then we say, ‘we’re listening to the science’, but why was the science saying something completely different beforehand?

“It’s baffling for many people, it’s causing uncertainty, it’s causing worry. People don’t know what the rules are any more. How can the science change from one day to the next?

“There comes a point in time where policy-makers have to get a grip on policy, decide what it is, be firm with it, be certain, give reassurance and say ‘this is the way we’re going to act’.”

Mr Merriman added: “It’s time we stopped hiding behind the science, which keeps changing, and we focus on the fact that we’re in charge, we give people reassurance, we say to people that the school is a safe setting.”

08:19 AM

Government following ‘best scientific advice’ after schools face covering U-turn, says Williamson

The Education Secretary has insisted that the Government is following the “best scientific and medical advice” after announcing a U-turn on guidance in England for face coverings in schools.

Gavin Williamson said an “extra precautionary measure” had been put in place with the updated guidance – issued on Tuesday evening – which says face coverings should be worn in communal areas of schools in local lockdown areas.

It followed pressure from teaching unions, which urged clarity before pupils return to school next week, and an announcement from Scotland that all secondary pupils there will be required to wear masks in between lessons.

On Monday, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, said the evidence on whether children over 12 should wear masks in schools is “not strong”.

Mr Williamson later reiterated that masks were not required due to extra measures being adopted by schools, while a Number 10 spokesman said there were no plans to review the guidance.

When asked what had changed, Mr Williamson told Sky News on Wednesday: “We always follow and listen to the best scientific and medical advice, and that’s why we’re not recommending that face coverings should be mandatory right across the country in all schools.

“The best scientific and medical advice says that that isn’t necessary.”

08:10 AM

Pupils in Leicester head back to school as lockdown eased

Pupils are returning to classes at some schools in Leicester – with travel safety measures in place to guard against Covid-19.

Around 20 schools in the city are reopening for some pupils today – with children at a further 92 returning to classes next Tuesday.

Extra buses will operate on busy public transport routes because fewer passengers are allowed on each vehicle due to social distancing measures, Leicester City Council said.

The authority has issued maps with “safe routes” for cycling and walking to encourage more pupils to travel on foot or by bike.

For many it will be their first time in class since March.

Social distancing reminders have been painted onto pavements near some schools to prevent crowds forming and signs with health advice have been put on lampposts.Marshals will also be present outside some schools.

08:05 AM

Italy fears ‘catastrophe by October’ as tourists vanish

As Italians await a €209bn EU stimulus package next year, fears are rising that the recovery will come too late to save businesses.

On a ferry from the town of Palau in northern Sardinia to the island of La Maddalena, famed for its white sand beaches and turquoise bays, the young woman behind the onboard bar is bored witless. “We’ve got 80pc fewer tourists than normal. Look around – the boat is nearly empty,” she says, scanning hopefully for a customer.

A few hundreds of miles away, in Rome, it is a similar story. “Our takings are down by about 75pc compared with normal,” says the woman behind the till in a bakery and delicatessen close to the Trevi Fountain, one of the capital’s most celebrated sights.

From tourism to manufacturing and construction to food production, Italy’s economy has suffered a catastrophic blow from the Covid-19 pandemic.

First detected in late February, it has since killed more than 35,000 people and infected a quarter of a million.

Italy’s GDP dropped by 12.4pc between April and June, the second quarter of the year. The health emergency has wiped out about 30 years of growth.

Read the full report from Nick Squires in Rome here.

07:18 AM

French government advisor warns of second wave in November

A second wave of the coronavirus pandemic could hit France in November, a government advisor told local media on Wednesday, as the city of Marseille tightened restrictions to fight the outbreak.

Authorities in Marseille said late on Tuesday that bars and restaurants would have shorter opening times, and they also broadened mandatory mask-wearing in the southern port city between Aug. 26 and Sept. 30.

“There are fears of a second wave in November,” Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the pandemic, told France 2 television on Wednesday.

France has the seventh-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, and the government is monitoring the figures closely to see if fresh restrictions or lockdown are needed.

Testing centre in Marseille - GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Testing centre in Marseille – GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Under the new measures, Marseille’s bars and restaurants will have to close from between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. local time (2100-0400 GMT), having previously been able to stay open until normal closing time at midnight or 1 a.m.

Mandatory mask-wearing will now be compulsory outdoors in public spaces in all districts of the city, having previously only been compulsory in some areas.

The French health ministry reported 3,304 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, well below daily highs seen last week, though greater numbers of young adults are testing positive.

The number of deaths in France from COVID-19 stands at 30,544 deaths, including 16 in the past 24 hours.

06:54 AM

Positive reaction to new school guidance

Headteachers and governors now have some flexibility on the use of face coverings in their schools, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School & College Leaders, has said.

He pointed out that schools differ in a range of areas from the size of the corridors to communal spaces, and in the safety plans that headteachers and governors have put in place.

It is known that among the range of safety measures, actions such as handwashing and keeping children separate are “much more important” than face coverings, he added.

Mr Barton told BBC Breakfast: “I think that ultimately to be able to say in a school – ‘yes we will’ or ‘no we won’t require you to wear face coverings’ or ‘if you want to wear one fine but you really don’t need to because other things are more important’.

“I actually think that reflects the way the English education system traditionally has worked, giving more responsibility to headteachers who know their context and are trusted by their communities.”

06:31 AM

What are the new rules for face masks in schools?

Further guidance on face coverings in England’s schools has been published by the Government, which sets out when they are required and pupils that are exempt.

It says that in local lockdown areas face coverings should be worn by staff and students moving around schools in communal areas and corridors from September 1.

Should new local restrictions be imposed, schools will need to communicate “quickly and clearly” the new arrangements to staff, parents and pupils.

schoolgirl in face mask - Vladimir Vladimirov
schoolgirl in face mask – Vladimir Vladimirov

It says that all schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed – such as when the layout of a school makes it difficult to do so.

Where a student or staff member is struggling to access a mask, or if it soiled or unsafe, the guidance says that schools should take steps to have a “small contingency supply” available, adding no-one should excluded on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

Exemptions to the new measures include those who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if a person is speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.

06:16 AM

European patients reinfected in “worrying” sign

Two patients, in Belgium and the Netherlands, are confirmed to have been re-infected with COVID-19, following a report this week by Hong Kong researchers about a man who had contracted a different strain of the virus four-and-a-half months after being declared recovered, Reuters reports.

“Viruses mutate and that means that a potential vaccine is not going to be a vaccine that will last forever, for 10 years, probably not even five years. Just as for flu, this will have to be redesigned quite regularly,” said Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst, adding that vaccine designers would not be surprised.

Dr David Strain, a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter and chair of the British Medical Association’s medical academic staff committee, said the cases were also worrying as it suggested that previous infection does not provide protection.

06:05 AM

Antonio Banderas on the road to recovery

Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas says he has overcome coronavirus after spending three weeks in confinement.

The Oscar-nominated star revealed the Covid-19 diagnosis on his 60th birthday earlier this month but has now fully recovered.

He shared the news on social media alongside a picture of him kicking giant coronaviruses.

“After 21 days of disciplinary confinement I can say now that today I overcame the Covid 19 infection,” Banderas said. “I am cured. My thoughts go to those who weren’t as fortunate as me, and to those who suffered more than I did.

“I also wish strength to the ones who are in the middle of the fight.”

Announcing the diagnosis, the Spaniard said he felt “relatively well, only a little more tired than usual”.

He said he would use the time in isolation to “read, write, relax and make some plans to give meaning to my 60 years which I reach full with desire and excitement”.

Banderas, known for films including The Mask Of Zorro and Pain And Glory, previously told how he suffered a heart attack in January 2017.

However, it did not cause any lasting damage, the actor said.

Banderas is far from the only A-list star to publicly reveal a Covid-19 diagnosis.

Tom Hanks, Idris Elba, Bryan Cranston and the singer Pink have all fallen ill with the disease.

04:41 AM

India records more than 60,000 cases for eighth day in a row

India recorded more than 60,000 cases for the eighth day in a row on Wednesday, as total cases crossed 3.2 million, data from the federal health ministry showed.

The world’s second-most populous country is third behind the United States and Brazil in terms of total caseload, and has recorded the world’s highest single-day caseload consistently since August 7, a Reuters tally showed.

Deaths in the last 24 hours stood at 1,059, taking the total number of fatalities from the infection to 59,449.

A paramedic takes a nasal swab sample from a woman in order to conduct a Rapid Antigen test as others stand in queue in Jammu, India - JAIPAL SINGH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A paramedic takes a nasal swab sample from a woman in order to conduct a Rapid Antigen test as others stand in queue in Jammu, India – JAIPAL SINGH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

04:12 AM

Australia hopes to start antibody clinical trials in early 2021

Australian researchers hope to start human trials of a coronavirus antibody therapy in early 2021, while a large-scale trial of a vaccine could begin by the end of this year, scientists said on Wednesday.

The research targets came as the country’s virus hotspot, Victoria state, recorded its second-most deadly day of the pandemic with 24 deaths. Just 149 new cases were reported, well down from daily rises of more than 700 about three weeks ago.

Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has made good progress in identifying the most potent antibodies that could neutralise the spike protein on the virus that causes Covid-19, stopping it from being able to enter human cells, researcher Wai-Hong Tam said.

Antibody therapies would be most useful for the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, she said.

Almost 64 per cent of Australia’s 549 deaths from Covid-19 have occurred among residents of aged-care homes, mostly in Victoria.

“If we’re very hopeful, we are looking at clinical trials early next year,” Ms Tam said.

Read more: Astrazeneca starts trial of Covid-19 antibody treatment

Antibodies vs T-cells
Antibodies vs T-cells

02:56 AM

Get back to work, Seoul tells striking doctors

South Korea ordered doctors in the Seoul area to return to work on Wednesday as they began a three-day strike in protest of several government proposals, including one to boost the number of doctors to deal with health crises like the coronavirus.

Trainee doctors have been staging ongoing walkouts, and thousands of additional doctors were due to stage a three-day strike starting on Wednesday.

The strikes come as South Korea battles one of its worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, with 320 new cases reported in the 24 hours to midnight Tuesday, the latest in more than a week and a half of triple-digit increases.

The walkouts on Wednesday forced South Korea’s five major general hospitals to limit their hours and delay scheduled surgeries, Yonhap news agency reported. Earlier in the week, the doctors reached an agreement with the government to continue to handle coronavirus patients, but failed to find a compromise on the broader issues.

Doctors oppose a government pledge to increase the number of medical students - AP
Doctors oppose a government pledge to increase the number of medical students – AP

01:33 AM

Banderas recovers from virus after three weeks in isolation

Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas says he has overcome coronavirus after spending three weeks in confinement.

The Oscar-nominated star revealed the Covid-19 diagnosis on his 60th birthday earlier this month but has now fully recovered.

He shared the news on social media alongside a picture of him kicking giant coronaviruses.

“After 21 days of disciplinary confinement I can say now that today I overcame the Covid 19 infection,” Banderas said. “I am cured. My thoughts go to those who weren’t as fortunate as me, and to those who suffered more than I did.

“I also wish strength to the ones who are in the middle of the fight.”

01:08 AM

Every Government coronavirus U-turn

The Government has made its latest U-turn of the coronavirus pandemic – now advising that face masks should be worn by secondary pupils and staff in some areas of England.

It comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson insisted measures being adopted by schools to limit the spread of the virus meant masks were not required and a day after a No 10 spokesman said there were no plans to review the guidance.

Here is every time the Government has missed a target or backtracked during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Boris Johnson has had to break promises on care home testing and face masks - GETTY IMAGES
Boris Johnson has had to break promises on care home testing and face masks – GETTY IMAGES

11:57 PM

Two-metre rule ‘outdated’

Rules on physical distancing to curb the spread of coronavirus are based on “outdated science”, a group of academics have said.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to social distancing, there should be “graded recommendations” for different distancing rules in different settings, researchers from Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care argued.

Writing in the BMJ, the team said this would provider greater protection for people in high risk settings and greater freedoms for people in lower risk settings.

They added that this would “potentially enable a return towards normality in some aspects of social and economic life”.

Read more: When could social distancing end – and what are the UK rules?

Social distancing at the Bodleian Library in Oxford - GETTY IMAGES
Social distancing at the Bodleian Library in Oxford – GETTY IMAGES

11:17 PM

Kim Jong-un raises alarm over North Korea’s coronavirus response

Kim Jong-un has called for prevention efforts against coronavirus and a typhoon, North Korean state media has reported.

An enlarged meeting of the politburo of the Workers Party took place amid a pandemic that is putting additional pressure on the North Korean economy, battered by recent border closures and flood damage.

The meeting assessed “some defects in the state emergency anti-epidemic work for checking the inroads of the malignant virus”, news agency KCNA said in a statement.

North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but Mr Kim said last month that the virus “could be said to have entered” the country and imposed a lockdown after a man was reported to have symptoms. Later test results on the man were inconclusive, according to the World Health Organisation.

Kim had this month lifted a three-week lockdown in the city of Kaesong after a suspected case of the coronavirus there.

The meeting discussed state emergency measures on preventing crop damage and casualties from Typhoon Bavi, which is expected to hit the country within days, KCNA reported. Heavy rain and flooding have raised concern about food supplies in the isolated country.

Read more: Kim calls for help as Typhoon Bavi approaches

Kim chaired the Workers' Party meeting on Tuesday - REUTERS
Kim chaired the Workers’ Party meeting on Tuesday – REUTERS

11:07 PM

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