Coronavirus latest news: Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine doing 'everything we expected'

Jordan Kelly-Linden
·66-min read
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

AstraZeneca's Oxford Covid-19 vaccine has successfully provoked a strong immune response in human cells, according to a detailed analysis carried out by independent UK scientists, which proves the science behind the jab is working as intended.

"The vaccine is doing everything we expected and that is only good news in our fight against the illness," said David Matthews, an expert in virology from Bristol University, who led the research.

AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with Oxford University researchers, is seen as a frontrunner in the race to produce a vaccine to protect against Covid-19.

The first data from late-stage large-scale clinical trials being conducted in several countries around the world, including Brazil, the United States and Britain, are expected to be released before the end of the year.

The vaccine - known either as ChAdOx1 or AZD1222 - is made by taking a common cold virus called an adenovirus from chimpanzees and deleting about 20 per cent of the virus’s instructions. This means it is impossible for the vaccine to replicate or cause disease in humans.

The Bristol researchers’ focus was to assess how often and how accurately the vaccine is copying and using the genetic instructions programmed into it by its designers. These instructions detail how to make the spike protein from the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19.

Once the spike protein is made, the immune system reacts to it, training the immune system to identify a real Covid-19 infection.

Follow the latest updates below.

05:42 PM

Berlin cancels Christmas markets

Berlin has cancelled one of its most popular Christmas markets - which normally attracts almost a million visitors each year - as Germany registered a record 11,827 new Covid-19 infections within 24 hours, the Times (paywall) reports, as the city steels itself for a second lockdown.

Dilek Kalayci, the city’s health minister, warned that her government was running out of targeted measures and said the contact-tracing system was overwhelmed. There are now nearly a thousand infections a day in the capital and half of its districts have detected more than 100 new cases for every 100,000 people over the past seven days.

05:39 PM

Greece orders night curfew for worst-hit areas

Greece will impose a night curfew in areas most affected by Covid-19, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday, announcing restrictions on movement in several areas of the country including Athens.

Earlier, authorities announced 882 new cases of coronavirus, a new peak, after 865 were reported on Wednesday.

Mitsotakis said movement would be banned from 12.30 a.m. to 5 a.m. in locations deemed high-risk and where elevated surveillance was necessary, based on a four-tier risk assessment by authorities. The measure would be in force from Saturday.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis - POOL / REUTERS
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis - POOL / REUTERS

Two regions in northern Greece, Kozani and Kastoria, are at the highest risk and regional lockdowns have already been announced, followed by other provinces of elevated surveillance in northern Greece and the region of Attica, where Athens is located.

"The objective is to restrict movement and night-time gatherings which are conducive to the spread of the virus. Perhaps it's less fun for a while, but it would mean more health in the longer term," Mitsotakis said.

Young people had a responsibility to help curb the spread, Mitsotakis said, adding that the state would be relentless in prosecuting businesses breaking the rules. "Now is not the time for secret parties, when this virus is having a party at the expense of our lives."

"The data is clear, the spread of the virus is particularly among young people, and at the times and locations where they gather. But from there on it spreads into family units, affecting older people disproportionately."

05:35 PM

An additional 4,156 patients have been hospitalised with coronavirus in England

Separate Government figures show there were 6,018 Covid-19 patients in hospital in England on Wednesday - the latest figure available - up from 4,156 a week ago, while 571 were in ventilation beds, up from 468.

A total of 861 patients with confirmed Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in England on Monday, the latest figure available, compared with 664 a week earlier.

05:27 PM

Cuba says US trade embargo cost more than $5 billion last year

Cuba on Thursday said the decades-old U.S. trade embargo, tightened under President Donald Trump, cost it a record total of more than $5 billion (£3.8 billion) over the last financial year and hurt its ability to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez made the comments at the launch of an annual campaign for a United Nations resolution condemning the embargo put in place after Cuba’s 1959 revolution.

This year’s U.N. General Assembly vote, originally set for October, was postponed to May next year due to the pandemic. It will be the 29th time Cuba has marshaled international support against the embargo.

Damages from April 2019 through March 2020 amounted to $5.570 billion, some $1.226 billion more than in the prior year, Rodriguez said, bringing the total cost to $144 billion (£109 billion) since the embargo's inception.

He added that sanctions had also made it hard to acquire necessary personal protective equipment and ventilators to fight coronavirus while U.S. policy had separated families.

"Whoever wins the U.S. elections will have to face the tangible reality that the blockade ... hurts the Cuban people, families, Cubans who live abroad (and) violates human rights," Rodriguez told a news conference in Havana.

05:16 PM

Test and Trace records worst week as amount of results received in 24 hours halves

Test and Trace has slumped to its worst performance on record, with just one in seven people going for walk-in Covid tests receiving their results in 24 hours.

The latest data showed that the percentage receiving their results in that time has halved in a week. Experts said the trend  was "disturbing" as virus infections rise across the country. 

When home tests are included in the statistics, just seven per cent of results were received in 24 hours – down from 15 per cent in a week. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of all "in-person" tests would be back within 24 hours.

The proportion of close contacts of positive cases reached was at an all-time low, with fewer than six in 10 being reached, the figures showed. 

Read more here.

05:01 PM

Government buys unlicensed flu jabs from the US to try and keep up with increased demand

Millions of doses of an unlicensed flu jab have been bought for use in the UK in a bid to keep up with demand for vaccines. 

Britain has authorised the temporary use of Flublok – already licensed in the US – with health chiefs insisting it is safe and effective. 

Ministers have promised the largest vaccination programme in history, with jabs to be offered to healthy people aged between 50 and 64 as well as to older people, children and those with underlying health conditions.

However, the Royal College of GPs has raised concerns about shortages of jabs, with some practices saying they have been left waiting up to a month for supplies. 

And a number of high-street pharmacies ran out of doses in September, amid unprecedented demand. 

More than two million doses of Flublok have now been purchased by the UK Government, under an emergency measures

Read more here.

04:53 PM

'Santa is a key worker': Nicola Sturgeon reassures children they will get their Christmas presents

Ms Sturgeon was faced by a barrage of questions as she faced the media, after Prof Leitch told BBC Scotland this morning that while there may be some 'normality' over Christmas, 'we're not going to have large family groupings with multiple families around, that is fiction for this year'.

After a question about Santas having to use Zoom in their grottos across the country, she turned to the camera and said: 'Santa will not be prevented from delivering your presents on Christmas Eve, Santa is a key worker and he has got lots of magic powers that make him safe to do that. 

'If he is having to do Grotto appearances by Zoom, that is to keep you safe, it is not because he is at any risk. Santa will be delivering presents across the world as normal.’ 

04:44 PM

Very ill Covid-19 patients are recovering after getting immune system drugs, scientists claim

Dangerously ill coronavirus patients are making "startling recoveries" in spite of being at "death’s door" after being given drugs which dial down the immune system, experts have said.

Trials are taking place into several drugs which prevent a part of the immune system – called the complement system – from becoming overactivated.

The furthest drug along in trials is called ravulizumab which is already used to treat rare blood diseases and it is being tested at hospitals in Cambridge, London, Birmingham, Leeds and Birmingham.  

Read more on this here.

04:27 PM

Canary Islands, Mykonos and Maldives added to quarantine-free travel list

Four destinations have been added to the Government’s travel corridors list, giving Britons a few more options for a last-minute quarantine-free autumn break. 

The biggest addition as far as UK holidaymakers are concerned is the Canary Islands. While Spain remains on the red list, a far lower case rate in the Atlantic archipelago means Britons can now visit the likes of Tenerife and Lanzarote without needing to self-isolate on their return home. 

Tenerife - Westend61
Tenerife - Westend61

Mykonos, the Maldives and Denmark were the other destinations given the green light. Mykonos is open to British tourists and its addition means the whole of Greece is now considered safe. The Maldives is welcoming tourists so long as they present evidence of a negative PCR test issued no more than 96 hours prior to departure. Denmark, however, is not permitting UK residents to enter unless they have a “worthy” reason – holidays, sadly, do not count. 

One country, Liechtenstein, was removed, although it is already requiring all UK arrivals to self-isolate for 10 days. 

The changes were announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps following the Government’s weekly review of its quarantine policy. 

Read more in our travel live blog

04:15 PM

Google searches 'can predict Covid outbreaks two weeks before they happen'

A rise in people Googling terms such as "Covid symptoms", "loss of smell" and "face mask" can predict coronavirus outbreaks more than two weeks before they happen, researchers have found.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in the US looked at what people were searching for in the weeks before the first coronavirus cases occurred in 50 states.

They found that searches for ten keywords and phrases relating to the pandemic rocketed before an outbreak occurred, and believe monitoring trends could give public health officials a head start in fighting the virus.

Read more here.

04:05 PM

Germany will require travelers from the UK to quarantine

Germany will require arrivals from the UK to quarantine for 14 days starting Saturday, according to guidance released Thursday by the German Missions in the United Kingdom.

Starting Saturday, Germany will classify the UK as a "Covid high-risk area," with the exception of the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

03:57 PM

France extends curfew to more regions as cases surge

The French prime minister Jean Castex has announced that Covid-19 curfew measures will be extended to a further 38 departments for six weeks because of the rapid spread of the virus across the country.

“The second wave is here” and “the situation is grave”, Castex told a news conference as he announced the curfew would now affect 46 million people - two-thirds of the French population - and would include some overseas territories.

"If we fail to stop the pandemic, we will be facing a dire situation and we will have to mull much tougher measures. "We still have time to avoid that but we don't have much time," he added.

Taking affect from midnight on Friday, people in the affected areas will have to stay at home between 9pm and 6am. Certain activities like travelling for work or seeking medical attention will be permitted, and those who don’t comply with the rules face a fine of €135.

03:50 PM

Boris Johnson warns not to 'count on' a vaccine

The final question is about the prospect of a vaccine and whether people should expect measures like social distancing and masks - and possibly more lockdowns - throughout 2021. 

Sir Patrick Vallance says he wont speculate on how successful they will be, but once that becomes clear then a plan can be made. 

"Clearly the aim of vaccination is to take most of the load of infection spread onto the vaccine in order to release other measures," he says, noting the speed of development so far is "remarkable". 

Boris Johnson says he really hopes there is progress on vaccines and it is "wonderful" that Sir Patrick is so confident. 

"But we can't just count on that which is why we have to do all the other things," he says. But another lockdown would be economically and psychologically damaging, he adds. 

He thanks local leaders again and says it is "down to all of us to follow the guidance". 

And the press conference is over.

03:44 PM

Sir Patrick Vallance: Could see some vaccine doses before Christmas

Sir Patrick Vallance says there is "good progress" on vaccines, even suggesting there might be some movement this side of Christmas, although stresses the spring is more likely. 

"Wider use of vaccines isn't going to be until spring of next year... but we might get a few doses before Christmas."

He says Test and Trace tries to "remove from circulation" people who are infectious, and that is "very difficult" because levels are so high. 

However technologies are improving, he adds. 

03:34 PM

Boris Johnson: I share people's frustrations on Test and Trace

Boris Johnson is then asked why the UK's Test and Trace system is not up to scratch compared to international standards. 

He says "I share people's frustrations" and says turnaround time does need to be improved. 

"People who do get a positive test do need to self-isolate... but the achievements of Test and Trace have been colossal," he adds. 

They are on track to reach 500,000 capacity by the end of this month, he adds. 

"If you test positive you have got to self-isolate," says the Prime Minister, reminding people about the carrot and stick approach of fine and support for those on low incomes. 

03:29 PM

Boris Johnson thanks Andy Burnham despite 'tough' talks

Sir Patrick Vallance is asked about the prospect of restrictions running up to and including Christmas - and he doesn't have happy news. 

He says they will have to be in place for some time. The quicker you get the R-rate below one, the quicker the restrictions can be lifted. 

"At the moment the numbers are heading in the wrong direction", but we have to wait and see, he adds. 

Boris Johnson then takes a turn responding to a question about his relationship with local leaders, who rejects claims he is unpopular, praising various local leaders.  

He even thanks Andy Burnham. 

"We have had fantastic and extensive local cooperation," he says, although admits it has been "tough"

03:22 PM

Rishi Sunak sets out support for businesses that are struggling but not shut

Boris Johnson then turns to questions from the public, the first of which is about support for firms to cover the cost of wages if they have not been specifically asked to close but there is no work available. 

The Prime Minister says they are doing everything they can to support businesses and points to a string of measures including loans and VAT cuts. 

Rishi Sunak then points to additional measures including £3,000 grant for businesses told to close, and the fact that staff wages will be covered by the Government. 

But for those who are still open, he says businesses can apply for grants worth up to £2,100 per month, and that staff can work as little as one day a week and be paid two-thirds of their salary, of which the employer pays just five per cent. 

03:19 PM

R-rate appears to be slowing in young people and in 'some areas'

Sir Patrick Vallance says the R-rate is about half what it would be naturally, which reflects the effort people are making to keep it under control. 

However the epidemic is still growing, he notes. It is doubling every 14-18 days, he says. 

Among young people this appears to be flattening off, and in some areas, but "we need to do more", he adds

Time series of estimated R range for UK
Time series of estimated R range for UK

 He then turns to the spread of the virus across England, which you can see here: 

Three-tier Covid lockdown map
Three-tier Covid lockdown map

03:17 PM

Sir Patrick Vallance brings forth the slides

Sir Patrick Vallance is then brought on to go through the regular slides, which he starts with the ONS estimates

Estimate of percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 in England
Estimate of percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 in England

 And hospital admissions, which he stresses is a lagging indicator and will lead to a rise in more serious outcomes including deaths.

Patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19
Patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19

 Sir Patrick notes that this all has a knock-on effect on the NHS' ability to deal with other illnesses as well. 

03:12 PM

Chancellor says new plan is 'better for the economy'

Rishi Sunak now takes the stand, confirming his new swathe of measures announced earlier today, including that people now only need to work a day a week to qualify for the jobs support scheme.

Employer contributions will only be cut to five per cent, he adds. 

"It is better for business, better for jobs and better for the economy," he says. The Chancellor runs through the other measures, all of which you can read about here. 

03:09 PM

Boris Johnson thanks people who have been 'enduring restrictions for so long'

Boris Johnson then turns to those who are enduring restrictions "and who have been enduring them for so long", and thanks them for their "patience and public spiritedness".

He says there are "clear signs" that is working, although the R-remains above one - but about half its natural rate. 

If everyone follows the rule, "we can get it down", he adds. 

That is why the Government is offering "unprecedented support" which has been adapted to the new restrictions. 

"We will win this fight against Covid," he adds

03:07 PM

Government's 'balanced approach' will chart a course between Scylla and Charybdis, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has started the press conference in which he will set out more about the enhanced package of support for people in Tier 2 and 3. 

The Prime Minister notes that some people argue the economic imperative is such that we should "stop any restrictions" on our lives but "alas, we would face many thousands more deaths". 

Vulnerable people could not be protected and the NHS would have even less capacity to deal with other medical needs "so that is why we reject that extreme laissez faire approach," he adds. 

On the other sides, there are calls for a March-style lockdown which "is not the right way now," he says. 

Not least if we have to "perform the same brutal lockdowns again and again and again", he adds. 

"That is why we are going for a balanced approach" that takes us between Scylla and Charybdis, the former classics student adds. 

03:04 PM

Briefing begins

Boris Johnson has begun his address. Rishi Sunak and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, have joined him on the podium.

Follow along for live updates here.

03:04 PM

Poland's daily death count is now four times higher than during its first virus wave

Poland reported 12,107 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, hitting a record high for the second day in a row, according to a series of tweets by the country’s health ministry. 

The ministry added that Poland also registered a record 168 new deaths related to Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total of fatalities to 4,019. 

That daily death count is more than four times the largest daily increase recorded by the country’s authorities during spring's first wave of Covid-19. On April 24, Poland recorded 40 deaths due to Covid-19, according to data from the health ministry. 

The country has seen an exponential rise in cases over the past couple of weeks, reporting on Wednesday more than 10,000 cases for the first time since the pandemic started. The total of confirmed cases has now reached 214,686.

Coronavirus Poland Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Poland Spotlight Chart - Cases default

02:59 PM

Puerto Rico closes 911 centers after employees test positive for Covid-19

Puerto Rico has closed the island's 911 emergency call centers after employees at both locations tested positive for coronavirus, Public Health Secretary Pedro Janer said in a statement. 

Janer said the island will be using central control as a point of contact in order to ensure operations and emergencies are tended to correctly. This will operate 24 hours a day with appropriate staffing, he added. 

For emergency situations residents are being told to call the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency. Personnel there will then launch all calls to the respective municipalities or state, Janer said. 

All employees who may have come into contact with a positive case have been asked to quarantine and will be tested in the coming days. 

02:52 PM

Siberian hospital keeps corpses of coronavirus victims in basement after running out of morgue space

Officials in Russia’s Siberia have confirmed that corpses of dozens of coronavirus victims have been stored in the basement of a local hospital for days due to the shortage of medical staff and morgue space.

A ghastly video recorded in the city of Barnaul emerged on Saturday shows at least two dozens of bodies in black plastic bags lying on gurneys and on the floor of what appears to be a basement, with water pipes running along the walls and on the ceiling.

Barnaul has recorded less than 300 deaths since the outbreak began but independent demographics say the real number is likely to be much higher.

The Altai region’s government in a statement on Thursday confirmed the video’s authenticity, pointing to a “significant increase in the number of deaths per day and the need for pathological and anatomical examining in all cases” as well as the lack of doctors to perform autopsies.

“Relatives also refuse to take (the bodies) in time due to the closure of funeral homes or the need to self-isolate after interacting with the infected person,” the statement said.

At least 98 people died this month at Barnaul’s Hospital 11 which has been repurposed to deal with coronavirus patients, the region’s health ministry said.

Authorities promised to use other hospitals for conducting autopsies and arrange for morgue space at another location to deal with the backlog.

Russia recorded its record-high coronavirus death toll of 317 on Wednesday and a further 290 deaths on Thursday. The number of new cases on Thursday was reported at 15,971.

02:44 PM

India's ruling party plays politics with Covid-19 jab

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party on Thursday has promised free doses of any future Covid-19 vaccine for the residents of eastern Bihar state if it wins local elections there, drawing accusations of playing politics with the pandemic.

Reuters reports that federal Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that Modi’s BJP would ensure that “everyone in Bihar will get a vaccine for free, that’s our first manifesto promise.”

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party on Thursday has promised free doses of any future COVID-19 vaccine for the residents of eastern Bihar state if it wins local elections there, drawing accusations of playing politics with the pandemic.

Reuters reports that federal Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that Modi’s BJP would ensure that “everyone in Bihar will get a vaccine for free, that’s our first manifesto promise.”

02:35 PM

Further 152 Covid patients die in English hospitals

A further 152 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 31,427.

Patients were aged between 36 and 97 years old. All except seven, aged between 61 and 95, had known underlying health conditions.

The dates range from 3 September to 21 October 2020, with the majority being on or after 16 October.

The North West was the worst affected region, with 60 deaths recorded, followed by the North East & Yorkshire (35), Midlands (29), East of England (10), London (nine), South East (seven) and South West (two). 

02:35 PM

Portugal imposes partial lockdown

 Portugal announced on Thursday that three northern municipalities will go under partial lockdown to fight a surge of coronavirus infections.

From Friday, around 161,000 residents in the municipalities of Felgueiras, Lousada and Pacos de Ferreira will only be able to leave home for work, school or other essential activities such as buying food and medicine.

Those able to work from home must do so, visits to care homes will be banned, events can only be attended by a maximum of five people and commercial outlets must close by 10 pm.

"These measures are due to the evolution of the pandemic in these three municipalities," Cabinet Minister Mariana Viera da Silva told a news conference.

Portugal, with just over 10 million people, has recorded a comparatively low 106,271 cases and 2,229 deaths. But, like in most European countries, infection have risen in recent weeks.

Last Friday, Portugal hit 2,608 cases, the highest daily figure since the pandemic started, although testing has also increased. A set of new, tougher measures to contain the disease came into force last week.

Most of the new cases are concentrated in the northern region and in and around the capital Lisbon.

Coronavirus Portugal Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Portugal Spotlight Chart - Cases default

02:25 PM

Matt Hancock hits out at 'political knockabout' over Test and Trace complaints

Matt Hancock has defended himself from "political knockabout" claims from Labour about the dismal performance of Test and Trace. 

The new weekly data from the programme shows 15.1 per cent of people who were tested for Covid-19 in England in the week ending October 14 at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit - a so-called in-person test - received their result within 24 hours.

This is down from 32.8 per cent in the previous week and is the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace began.

The figures also show a drop to 59.6 per cent in the proportion of close contacts of people who tested positive who were reached.

This is the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace began and is down from 63 per cent in the previous week.

However challenged on this, Mr Hancock hits back, saying 50 sets of Test and Trace stats are released every week and Labour "always finds the one going in the wrong direction".

02:17 PM

Moderna completes enrollment in its large Covid-19 vaccine study

Moderna Inc said on Thursday it has completed enrolling 30,000 participants in a late-stage study testing its experimental coronavirus vaccine.

Over 25,650 participants have so far received their second shot of the vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, the company said.

Moderna said its study includes more than 11,000 participants from minority communities in the US, representing 37 per cent of the study population.

02:03 PM

Human challenge vaccine trials getting £33m in support, says Health Secretary

Matt Hancock then turns to vaccines, which is also showing progress. 

The Health Secretary confirms that "human challenge trials" are starting to speed up development, backed with £33m. 

This involves taking a vaccine candidate that has been proven to be safe in trials and giving it to healthy human subjects who are then infected with the virus. 

"We should all be proud that once again we are leading on this global effort," he adds. 

02:03 PM

Pregnancy-style Covid tests being rolled out to schools, universities and councils

Back to the commons, Matt Hancock says the Government is making progress on "long-term solutions" to the virus. 

That includes testing capacity of more than 370,000. The Government has a target of 500,000 by the end of the month. 

The Health Secretary confirms that lateral flow tests - pregnancy test-style kits - have begun being rolled out to schools and universities. "The kit gives you the result in minutes," Mr Hancock says. 

"If we can deliver a mass testing solution so that pupils in a bubble don't have to self-isolate for a fortnight when one in the bubble tests positive, we will not only control the spread of the virus, we will protect education better and help schools, parents and teachers to live their lives much closer to normal," he says. 

The tests are also starting to be rolled out in councils, kicking off with Stoke-on-Trent. 

02:02 PM

New Covid-19 rapid tests a game changer for Africa: WHO

The roll-out of new, World Health Organization approved antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus in Africa will significantly boost testing capacity and marks a game changer in the continent’s fight against Covid-19, the WHO's regional office has said.

Many African countries have struggled to test in sufficient numbers to control the pandemic, with only 12 in the region reaching a key threshold of 10 tests per 10,000 people per week during the past month.

They have also often fallen short when compared to other countries of a similar size in a different region. For example, Senegal has significantly boosted its testing capacity but is testing 14 times less than the Netherlands. Nigeria is testing 11 times less than Brazil.

“The widespread use of high-quality rapid testing in Africa can revolutionize the continent’s response to Covid-19,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “The new, antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests will help meet the huge testing needs in Africa.”

Most countries in the region conduct polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests, the gold standard, which require laboratories, reagents and experts, limiting Covid-19 testing mostly to large cities. People can wait from 48 hours to more than ten days for results as they are sent for laboratory verification.

The new rapid tests are easy to use, cheaper than PCR tests and provide the results in just 15–30 minutes, enabling countries to decentralize testing.

01:49 PM

Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough to be moved into Tier 2 from Saturday

Speaking in the commons, Matt Hancock has said that new measures will apply to Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough where there are more than 100 cases per 100,000 and cases are doubling every fortnight. 

As a result, they will be put into the high alert level - or Tier 2 - from one minute past midnight on Saturday. 

The main difference is no indoor socialising with people from outside your household, he explains. 

Conversations are also starting with Warrington about placing that area into Tier 3.  

"I am worried about the rising cases, especially among the over-60s in Warrington," he says. 

Where are the UK's coronavirus hotspots?
Where are the UK's coronavirus hotspots?

01:30 PM

Hospitality bodies threaten legal action against the Scottish Government

Five hospitality bodies in Scotland have threatened legal action against the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, UK Hospitality (Scotland), the Scottish Hospitality Group and Night Time Industries Association Scotland served the Scottish Government with notice of action on Wednesday.

Following an opinion from Aidan O'Neill QC which said a judicial review into restrictions place on the industry by the Scottish Government would be warranted, the group decided to take action.

A deadline of 4pm on Wednesday has been set for a response from the Scottish Government, with a petition for a judicial review being submitted if none is forthcoming.

Paul Waterson, spokesman for the group, said: "It is with regret that we now commence with this first stage in the legal process. We understand and entirely support the goal of suppressing the virus but our sector is at breaking-point.

"Despite having more mitigation measures than other sectors and the vast majority of operators going above-and-beyond in ensuring customer safety, our sector has been repeatedly targeted without consultation and without the evidence. "

01:23 PM

Ronaldo skips Juventus’ Champions League clash after testing positive

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to miss Juventus’ Champions League clash against Barcelona next week after testing positive for coronavirus for a second time, according to reports.

The 35-year-old initially tested positive for Covid-19 on 13 October and was forced to withdraw from Portugal’s squad during the international break.

He subsequently returned to Italy for his quarantine period and had to miss Juventus’ last two matches against Crotone in Serie A and Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League.

Cristiano Ronaldo - GONZALO FUENTES / REUTERS
Cristiano Ronaldo - GONZALO FUENTES / REUTERS

01:09 PM

Cyprus adopts mask-wearing outdoors to contain virus spike

Cyprus will make mask-wearing outdoors compulsory while imposing a night-time curfew in some areas in a bid to rein in a sharp spike in coronavirus cases, officials said Thursday.

The east Mediterranean island has seen daily infections rise to record three-digit figures after keeping numbers low for most of the summer.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the measures were necessary to flatten and contain the "rapid spread" of the virus in recent weeks.

He said face masks must be worn in "all outdoor public spaces" except when exercising.

12:56 PM

Downing Street defends Test & Trace following lowest 24-hour turnaround figures yet

The performance of the NHS Test and Trace system continues to slide, with just one in seven people having a test at a centre getting their result back in 24 hours.

The new weekly data from the programme shows 15.1 per cent of people who received in-person tests received their result within 24 hours, down from 32.8 per cent in the previous week and is the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace began.

The figures also show a drop to 59.6 per cent in the proportion of close contacts of people who tested positive who were reached.

However the Prime Minister's spokesman defended the system, saying tests were now being processed at an "unprecedented scale," with more than 300,000 being completed a day. 

However, he acknowledged that "testing turnaround times must improve", adding that test and trace was increasing staffing levels and introducing more automation to try and reach its targets.

Asked if had been a mistake to cut the number of national contact tracers from 18,000 to 12,000 in August, he replied: "No, what you’ve seen is us also adding significant resource and funding to our ability to use local test and trace teams to identify people on the ground and encourage them to self isolate."

12:48 PM

Coronavirus cases in the Netherlands climb by more than 9,000

The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands climbed by more than 9,000 in 24 hours, a new record, data released by the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) on Thursday showed.

The RIVM registered 9,271 new Covid-19 cases in one of Europe's second-wave hotspots, roughly a week after the government imposed "partial lockdown" measures including the closure of bars and restaurants.

Coronavirus Netherlands Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Netherlands Spotlight Chart - Cases default

12:41 PM

South Korea sticks to flu vaccine plan despite safety fears after 25 die

South Korean officials refused on Thursday to suspend a seasonal influenza inoculation effort, despite growing calls for a halt, including an appeal from a key group of doctors, after the deaths of at least 25 of those vaccinated.

Health authorities said they found no direct links between the deaths and the vaccines.

At least 22 of the dead, including a 17-year-old boy, were part of a campaign to inoculate 19 million teenagers and senior citizens for free, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

"The number of deaths has increased, but our team sees low possibility that the deaths resulted from the shots," the agency's director, Jeong Eun-kyeong, told parliament.

Read more here. 

Choi Dae-zip, president of the Korean Medical Association, speaks during a news conference on the deaths of those who received this year's flu jab -  YONHAP NEWS AGENCY / Reuters
Choi Dae-zip, president of the Korean Medical Association, speaks during a news conference on the deaths of those who received this year's flu jab - YONHAP NEWS AGENCY / Reuters

12:30 PM

Germany hit by record surge in virus cases

Germany reported a huge jump in coronavirus cases on Thursday, with health experts warning of a "very serious" situation and regional disagreements hampering efforts to slow the contagion.

The country reported 11,287 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours - a large increase from the previous record of 7,830 last Friday.

"The overall situation has become very serious," Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) disease control centre, told a press conference.

It is still possible to bring the virus under control through "systematic compliance with restrictive measures", Wieler said.

But he urged people to observe the rules and cautioned that an "uncontrolled" spread could be unavoidable in some regions.

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

12:23 PM

European cities plead for more flu shots as winter loom

A surge in demand for vaccines to ward off the winter flu has led to shortages in some European cities, raising the risk of a potentially lethal "twindemic" as Covid-19 cases spike.

Many governments boosted vaccine orders this year and launched campaigns to encourage citizens to get shots.

The aim was to inoculate earlier than usual and cover a bigger portion of the continent's 450 million population to reduce the burden on health services.

Top manufacturers such as GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi , Abbott and Seqirus have boosted supplies to the region by an average of 30 per cent in anticipation of higher demand. But they are operating at full capacity and cannot meet all the late extra demand, Vaccines Europe, which represents the producers, said in a statement on Wednesday.

a person receiving a vaccination - David Cheskin / PA 
a person receiving a vaccination - David Cheskin / PA

12:13 PM

University students may be asked to self-isolate before Christmas

Welsh education minster Kirsty Williams has said UK-wide discussions are ongoing as to whether university students will be asked to self-isolate before returning to their family homes for Christmas.

Ms Williams said all four UK nations would meet next week to work out how they could facilitate a "safe return" for students in December as well as how to limit the amount of time they could have to isolate for.

She told a press conference in Cardiff: "I have just within the last half hour finished a meeting with colleagues across the United Kingdom, discussing how we can ensure that students, wherever they are studying in the UK, will be able to return safely home for Christmas.

"We are looking at a range of options to allow that to happen. Self-isolation is an active consideration and how we can limit the amount of time people will self-isolate and other approaches are being actively considered.

"We will meet again as four UK nations next week to discuss progress and how we can operationalise that safe return."

A student walks in front of the Arches at Newcastle University in Newcastle -  Owen Humphreys / PA
A student walks in front of the Arches at Newcastle University in Newcastle - Owen Humphreys / PA

12:04 PM

Watch: Merseyside hospital staff 'disheartened' by lockdown rule-breakers

Staff at Whiston Hospital described treating coronavirus patients in the second wave as 'unnerving' and 'worrying'.

Though they say they are better prepared than they were in the first wave, they are 'disheartened' by members of the public seemingly not taking lockdown rules seriously. 

11:55 AM

Fourteen South Korean delivery workers die because of pandemic overwork

Fourteen delivery workers in South Korea have died of overwork this year because they had to handle a sharply higher volume of packages due to the coronavirus pandemic, a union official said.

A worker for CJ Logistics Corp collapsed while taking a short break late on Tuesday night and later died in hospital, according to an official at the union representing delivery workers.

The dead also included one worker who committed suicide after leaving a note about the harsh conditions he had toiled in, the official said.

One of the deaths was attributed to heart failure while the causes of death for the rest were only described as 'kwarosa' by the families, a Korean term used for sudden death due to heart failure or a stroke as a result of extreme hard work.

Earlier this week, President Moon Jae-in called for an overhaul of working conditions for delivery employees, saying they have suffered some of the worst hardships under the pandemic.

CJ on Thursday issued a public apology over the deaths of five of its workers, vowing to improve conditions for its couriers. The country's top logistics firm with 20,000 delivery workers said it was discussing compensation with the families.

11:48 AM

Boris Johnson to hold press conference today

Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, will hold a press conference at 4pm, No 10 has announced.

Presumably this will be to recap the new announcements made today, which you can read about below or in our politics live blog here.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) departs 10 Downing Street with Chancellor Rishi Sunak - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) departs 10 Downing Street with Chancellor Rishi Sunak - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

11:42 AM

More than £2 billion paid out under Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Around £2.1 billion has been paid out in furlough cash under the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in the last month, new figure from HM Revenue and Customs show.

The claims, between September 20 and October 18, mean that around £41.4 billion has been claimed so far as part of the scheme, by 9.6 million employees working for 1.2 million businesses.

Meanwhile, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has paid out another £300 million to approximately 100,000 self-employed people.

11:12 AM

Experts reveal how to optimise heat and humidity to reduce Covid transmission inside the home

Battling the coronavirus in winter is going to be tricky. Should you turn the heating up or down? Should windows be opened or closed? And how important is it to get the humidity right in your home?

A new study shows that both temperature and humidity play a key role in the survival of the virus and therefore the risk of transmission.

Sarah Newey has the results of a new study, which are going to become all the more relevant in the next couple of months, here.

A new study shows that both temperature and humidity play a key role in the survival of Sars-Cov-2 and therefore the risk of transmission
A new study shows that both temperature and humidity play a key role in the survival of Sars-Cov-2 and therefore the risk of transmission

11:03 AM

Germany issues travel warnings for ski regions in Austria, Switzerland and Italy

Germany issued travel warnings for popular ski regions in Austria, Italy and Switzerland on Thursday aiming to contain the spread of the coronavirus after the country reported more than 10,000 new daily cases for the first time.

The RKI public health institute said Germany must prepare for an uncontrolled spread of the virus.

"The situation has become very serious overall," Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases told a news conference. "We still have a chance to slow the spread of the pandemic."

However, that required people to stick to the rules, he said. A change in strategy was not planned.

Under the warning, travellers returning from high risk regions to Germany must quarantine for 10 days. They are allowed to get a coronavirus test from the fifth day. If the test is negative, they can leave the quarantine.

While Germany’s infection rates are lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating and the number of confirmed cases last rose by 11,287 to 392,049. Germany's death toll stands at 9,905.

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

10:56 AM

Rishi Sunak doubles support for self-employed

Rishi Sunak then goes onto unveil support for the "dynamic entrepreneurial heart of the economy" - the self-employed. 

He confirms the Government will increase the amount of profits covered by the two forthcoming self-employed grants from 20 per cent to 40 per cent, meaning the maximum grant will increase from £1,875 to £3,750.

The Chancellor says "this is our plan - a plan for jobs, for businesses, for the regions, for the economy, for the country."

It is a plan to "support the British people," he concludes. 

10:55 AM

Rishi Sunak cuts employer contributions to jobs support scheme

Rishi Sunak has also unveiled some changes to the jobs support scheme, which replaces the furlough. 

Originally the JSS – which will come into effect on November 1 - expected employers to a third of their employees’ wages for hours not worked, and required employers to be working 33 per cent of their normal hours.

The Chancellor said the amount employers must contribute for unworked hours could be cut to just five per cent. He also  reduced the minimum hours requirements to 20 per cent, so those working just one day a week will be eligible.  

"It is better for businesses, better for jobs and better for the economy," he says. 

10:53 AM

Sunak announces backdated cash grants for businesses under restrictions

Rishi Sunak has said it is "clear that even businesses who can stay open are facing profound economic uncertainty". 

He says the message from hospitality businesses this morning was clear and the impact of Tier 2 restrictions was "worse than they hoped". The Chancellor notes a "significant fall in consumer demand is causing profound economic harm to their industry". 

Mr Sunak says "open but struggling businesses require further support" as he launches three new measures.

The Chancellor announces cash grants of up to £2,100 per month primarily for businesses in the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sector, which can be backdated to August. 

He lists MPs from many northern cities saying the backdating will help those businesses under higher restrictions for longer.

"Let no one say this Government is not committed to supporting people and businesses in every region and nation of the United Kingdom," he adds. 

10:51 AM

Rishi Sunak warns of 'difficult weeks ahead' as he promises 'people are not alone'

Over to the Commons and Rishi Sunak is giving his statement to MPs while Boris Johnson watches from the frontbench. 

The Chancellor says there "are difficult days and weeks ahead" but stresses "people are not alone". 

People will be protected "wherever they live and whatever their situation", he adds. 

"I make no apology for responding to changing circumstances, and so today we go further," Mr Sunak says. 

He reiterates his commitment to the three-tiered system, which comes with billions of support for local authorities, grant schemes and a jobs support scheme, he adds. 

10:50 AM

People now waiting around 48 hours for test results, latest figures show

NHS Test and Trace has published its weekly performance statistics, with the latest figures showing that there has been a significant increase in the amount of time taken for test results to be delivered

People using regional test sites, local test sites or mobile testing units now have to wait around 48 hours for a result, double that promised by the Prime Minister earlier this year.

Median time from taking a test to receiving test results in England, pillar two - NHS track and trace
Median time from taking a test to receiving test results in England, pillar two - NHS track and trace

The report says:

The median time to receive a test result after taking a test in-person has increased in the latest week.

In the first month of test and trace, there was an initial reduction in the median time taken to receive a test result for in-person tests (regional test sites, local test sites and mobile testing units). This began to gradually trend back up from the start of July until the middle of September.

Between 8 October and 14 October, the median time taken to receive a test result at regional test sites increased to 45 hours from 28 hours in the previous week. Similarly, local test sites increased to 47 hours from 29 hours and mobile testing units also increased to 41 hours from 26 hours during the same period.

10:30 AM

Rishi Sunak poised to bolster jobs support scheme - watch his Commons statement live

Rishi Sunak will today announce a change to the job support scheme which will see the Government boost the wage subsidy for part-time workers, The Telegraph understands.

Currently the scheme requires businesses in tier one and tier two areas to contribute 55 per cent towards the employees’ wages in order to receive a 22 per cent top up from the Government. 

However, insiders say Mr Sunak will today announce a reduction in employer contributions and an increase in the subsidy, helping to relieve pressure on firms which have seen their trade fall due to the 10pm pub curfew and ban on household mixing indoors.

This would bring the part-time scheme closer to the enhanced scheme available in tier three areas, which pays a 66 per cent wage subsidy for firms required to close. 

Employers are only required to pay national insurance and pension contributions in these areas.The Chancellor is also understood to have discussed increasing the eligibility of cash grants of up to £3,000 a month, which are currently limited to firms which have been forced to close by law.

The requirement for employees’ to work at least a third of their hours to access the scheme may also be reduced today.

Watch live here.

10:25 AM

British Airways jumbo saved from scrap heap by film deal

A British Airways jumbo jet has found a new role as a film set, saving it from the scrap heap where dozens of BA's other retired jumbos have ended up.

British Airways said that one of its 747s will fly to Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, southern England, later on Thursday, where the airport will preserve it as a commercial TV and film set.

Blaming the coronavirus pandemic, BA said in July it would have to retire its entire jumbo jet fleet, a source of huge regret for aero-geeks and fans of the "Queen of the Skies", the aircraft which brought long-haul flights to the masses.

The pandemic has brought financial ruin to the travel industry. BA's owner IAG reported a 1.3 billion euro loss earlier on Thursday and warned on future demand.

A British Airways Boeing 747 does a flypast over London Heathrow airport on it's final flight, the last of 31 jumbo jets to be retired early by the airline due to pandemic - Toby Melville /  REUTERS
A British Airways Boeing 747 does a flypast over London Heathrow airport on it's final flight, the last of 31 jumbo jets to be retired early by the airline due to pandemic - Toby Melville / REUTERS

10:15 AM

Total borrowed in Covid-19 support loans reached £4.6 billion last month

Businesses have borrowed around £4.6 billion in Covid-19 support loans in the last month, according to new figures from the Treasury.

The data show that 6,509 companies borrowed £1.71 billion under the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme between September 20 and October 18.

Meanwhile, 75,380 companies borrowed £2.18 as part of the bounce back loan scheme.

Some 57 companies borrowed around £730 million from the coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme.

10:06 AM

Malaysia reports more than 800 new cases

 Malaysia's health ministry reported 847 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, raising the total to 23,804.

The Southeast Asian country, which imposed targeted lockdowns this month amid a spike in cases, also recorded five new deaths, raising total fatalities to 204.

09:53 AM

Family Christmas 'cancelled' in Scotland

Scots have been warned to prepare for a ‘digital Christmas’ after one of Nicola Sturgeon’s top advisers dismissed hopes of a normal festive season as ‘fiction’, Daniel Sanderson reports.

Jason Leitch, the Scottish Government's National Clinical Director, said he expected some form of coronavirus restrictions to still be in force in December, meaning traditional large family gatherings are likely to be banned.

The First Minister is due to publish details of a five-tier system for local lockdowns on Friday, which will include a “severe” upper level over and above Boris Johnson “very high” alert, under which restrictions would resemble the full lockdown the UK went into in March.

Read the full story here.

09:42 AM

Gyms to reopen in Liverpool

Steve Rotheram, the metro mayor of Liverpool, has confirmed from midnight Friday gyms, dance studios and leisure centres can reopen, but soft play areas will close.

Mr Rotheram said he had confirmation from No 10 on the measures.

Three-tier Covid lockdown map
Three-tier Covid lockdown map

09:35 AM

Belgian's Foreign Minister admitted to intensive care

Sophie Wilmès, Belgian's Foreign Minister, has been admitted to ICU with Covid-19.

On October 17, Ms Wilmès tweeted that she had tested positive and had probably been infected by a member of her family.

“She is conscious and she can communicate,” her spokeswoman said, confirming that Wilmès was receiving intensive care. A source in her office said her condition was “stable”.

Ms Wilmès was prime minister up until last month.

09:08 AM

Poland reports record 12,107 news cases

Poland's health ministry has reported a record 12,107 new coronavirus infections and 168 deaths in the space of 24 hours.

The new record of infected people happened just a day after the country recorded it's previous one at 10,040.

Earlier this month the government made wearing masks compulsory, shortened opening hours in bars and restaurants and launched remote teaching in secondary schools and universities. It also closed gyms and swimming pools.

Later today it is expected to ban wedding parties all over the country and impose more curbs in shops and services, while extending online teaching to older pupils at primary schools.

The ministry said that as of Thursday, Covid-19 patients occupied 10,091 hospital beds and were using 812 ventilators, compared with 9,439 and 757 respectively a day earlier. There were so far a total of 214,686 people infected in the country with a population of 38 million.

Construction works of a temporary Covid-19 hospital are underway at the PGE National Stadium in Warsaw - Daniel Gnap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Construction works of a temporary Covid-19 hospital are underway at the PGE National Stadium in Warsaw - Daniel Gnap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
 Poland's health ministry reported a record 12,107 new coronavirus infections and 168 deaths in the space of 24 hours on Thursday - Daniel Gnap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Poland's health ministry reported a record 12,107 new coronavirus infections and 168 deaths in the space of 24 hours on Thursday - Daniel Gnap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The ministry said that as of Thursday, COVID-19 patients occupied 10,091 hospital beds and were using 812 ventilators, compared with 9,439 and 757 respectively a day earlier, as construction works of a temporary Covid-19 hospital get underway - Daniel Gnap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
The ministry said that as of Thursday, COVID-19 patients occupied 10,091 hospital beds and were using 812 ventilators, compared with 9,439 and 757 respectively a day earlier, as construction works of a temporary Covid-19 hospital get underway - Daniel Gnap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

08:52 AM

One in six kids experienced mental health problems this summer

One in six children experienced mental health problems this summer, compared to one in nine three years ago, new data show.

The rate has risen in boys aged 5 to 16 from 11.4 per cent in 2017 to 16.7 per cent in July 2020 and in girls from 10.3 per cent to 15.2 per cent over the same time period, according to The Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2020 report, published today by NHS Digital, the Office for National Statistics, the National Centre for Social Research, the University of Cambridge and the University of Exeter.

The report looked at the mental health of children and young people in July 2020 compared to 2017, and factors such as family life, education and worries about the Covid-19 pandemic were examined. 

Over a fifth (22.3 per cent) of parents thought their child was worried about catching the virus during the pandemic, the report found.

08:33 AM

Worldwide summary

Here's a roundup of the latest coronavirus news this morning:

  • Germany has issued travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland and most of Austria. The country warned against unnecessary travel to eight of Austria's nine provinces with only the Carinthia province excluded.

  • The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by more than 10,000 in a single day for the first time, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. The institute recorded 11,287 new cases in its daily update for a total of 392,049. The previous day's increase was 7,595

  • Spain's health minister has said that the country's coronavirus pandemic was not under control and that drastic measures were needed to combat it.

  • Russia recorded 290 new deaths from Covid-19 on Thursday, bringing its official death toll to 25,242.

  • Poland's daily number of coronavirus new infections may pass 10,000 today after rising to record high of 10,040 on Wednesday, country's Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska told private broadcaster Polsat News.

Coronavirus live map cases tracker
Coronavirus live map cases tracker

08:15 AM

Kit Malthouse: Rules are clear, unless you need to know them in multiple areas

Kit Malthouse, minister for crime and policing, has said the coronavirus rules are only inconsistent if you're trying to understand them in more than one area.

"If you are clear about where you live, you know that you are in a particular tier, you put your postcode in and it will tell you exactly what you can and can't do in your particular area," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He added somebody in Hampshire "doesn't necessarily need to know" what the rules are in Liverpool. 

"Fundamentally, we can't expect there to be a standard set of rules across the country, other than the basiscs," he said.

08:08 AM

Alan Billings: Public need a 'sense' Government knows what it's doing

Alan Billings, police commissioner for South Yorkshire, has said he is worried about the public mood and the police may face difficulties enforcing coronavirus rules.

"It's not just confusion that's going on, there's uncertainty, there's anxiety, people are tired now in the way they weren't in the original lockdown," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"And there is a lot of anger as well, because of the constant chopping and changing."

He added that the public needs a "sense that the Government knows what it's doing" and that the latest restrictions make sense in relation to an overall plan.

07:52 AM

West Mids Mayor expects announcement on additional hospitality support

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said he expects Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce additional support for businesses in the hospitality sector in areas in England under Tier 2 coronavirus controls.

Mr Street said businesses are losing out because they are unable to claim under the local furlough scheme which is available to those ordered to close under the tougher Tier 3 controls.

"The Government have given incredible support to businesses, but clearly this particular point was just one that was completely missed in planning the Tier 2 restrictions so I am really optimistic that they will respond," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The Government didn't expect us to be in a position through the autumn where we were having a rising level of the virus to this extent, so if you look at the design of the winter economy package at the time that seemed rational but clearly events have moved very quickly."

Read more: Rishi Sunak to pledge extra help for pubs and restaurants in Tier 2 areas

07:40 AM

Kit Malthouse: People have to 'grit their teeth' and get through it

Kit Malthouse, minister for crime and policing, gave an interview to BBC Breakfast this morning. Here's a roundup of what he had to say.

  • The decision to not extend free school meals over the holidays was a "tough one", he said, but the Government felt it could better help families through the benefits system.

  • Each police force has its own plans to deal with the next phase of the pandemic, he said, adding that though there were some people "taking the mickey", officers were generally encouraging the public to follow the rules.

  • As cases rise people had to "grit their teeth" and do their best to get through the current wave of the virus, he added. "I think everybody is fed up, we are all fed up, nobody is enjoying this experience. But in truth this is the moment, as we see the numbers mounting, that we all have to grit our teeth and do our best to get through it," he said.

  • Mr Malthouse said the majority of people were complying with the rules and the number of fines issued by police for breaches was "tiny really". He added: "What we are seeing across the country, the polling is telling us there's strong support for the measures being put in place and we are seeing high levels of compliance."

07:33 AM

South Korea flu jab programme should be put on hold, doctors say

South Korea's medical association has said the government should suspend a flu vaccine programme following the deaths of at least 13 people who received a shot in recent days.

Health authorities said they have found no direct links between the deaths and the vaccines, but Choi Dae-zip, president of the Korean Medical Association, told a news conference that the inoculation programme should be put on hold until the government secured the safety of the vaccines.

The government had planned to inoculate around 19 million people for free. The deaths, which include a 17-year-old boy and a man in his 70s, come just a week after the free flu shot programme for teenagers and senior citizens was restarted.

The programme was suspended for three weeks after it was discovered that some 5 million doses, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility.

South Korea's vaccines come from a variety of sources. Manufacturers include local drug makers GC Pharma, SK Bioscience and Ilyang Pharmaceutical Co, along with France's Sanofi and Britain's Glaxosmithkline. Distributors include LG Chem Ltd and Boryung Biopharma Co. Ltd., a unit of Boryung Pharm Co. Ltd. .

GC Pharma, LG Chem, SK Bioscience and Boryung declined to comment. Ilyang Pharmaceutical, Sanofi and GSK could not immediately be reached for comment.

Officials said 8.3 million people have been inoculated with the free flu vaccine since it resumed on Oct. 13, with around 350 cases of adverse reactions reported.

07:06 AM

Liverpool Hospitals treating more patients than first wave peak

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust is now treating more patients with coronavirus than it was at the peak of the first wave, the medical director has said.

Writing on Twitter, Dr Tristan Cope said: "Sadly we are now treating more patients in hospital with Covid-19 @LivHospitals than we did in April at the peak of the first wave and numbers continue to rise. So important that people in #liverpool and @LivCityRegion adhere to social distancing restrictions.

"Treating so many Covid patients in addition to usual acute and emergency care of patients with non-Covid conditions puts a huge strain on @LivHospitals staff. Thank you to all our staff for their incredible hard work and dedication in dealing with this very difficult situation.

"We can all help reduce that pressure by doing the right thing and taking some very simple measures: washing our hands frequently, keeping our distance from others from outside our household and wearing face coverings in indoor settings."

Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically
Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically

06:54 AM

People should 'inform themselves' about local rules, says minister

Minister for crime and policing Kit Malthouse said it was important that people inform themselves about the coronavirus regulations in their areas.

When asked on BBC Breakfast about assistant chief constable Owen Weatherill's comments about the new tier system being confusing, Mr Malthouse said the different rules do bring some "complexity".

He added: "There's plenty of information out there on the internet where people can go and inform themselves about what the regulations are in their area and that fundamentally is what we would recommend everybody has to do.

"We all need to recognise we have an individual duty towards our collective health and that means informing ourselves about what the regulations are in our area and complying with the rules."

06:42 AM

Oxford vaccine trial to continue in Brazil after volunteer death

Trials of the University of Oxford coronavirus vaccine will continue in Brazil following the death of a volunteer.

The man died after taking part in the vaccine trials, which are backed by UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

But the university has said an independent review revealed no safety concerns.

It has been reported the volunteer had taken a placebo. 

"Following careful assessment of this case in Brazil, there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial and the independent review in addition to the Brazilian regulator have recommended that the trial should continue," a spokesperson said.

Read more: Death of Oxford coronavirus vaccine volunteer in Brazil 'not related' to trial

06:18 AM

Martin Bashir 'seriously unwell' with Covid-19 complications

Journalist Martin Bashir is 'seriously ill' with Covid related illness
Journalist Martin Bashir is 'seriously ill' with Covid related illness

Veteran journalist Martin Bashir is "seriously unwell" with coronavirus-related complications, the BBC has said.

The 57-year-old, best known for his 1995 interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, currently works as the BBC News religion editor.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: "We are sorry to say that Martin is seriously unwell with Covid-19 related complications.

"Everyone at the BBC is wishing him a full recovery.

"We'd ask that his privacy, and that of his family, is respected at this time."

06:08 AM

Students said police were 'spoiling their fun' after uncovering hiding partygoers

Four university students have been fined £10,000 each after being caught hosting a party and then telling police they should be "having the time of their lives".

Officers patrolling the Lenton area in Nottingham spotted the party but the hosts said everyone had left. But inside the property police found more than 30 people hiding in the kitchen, bathrooms and basement, according to the BBC.

The organisers told the police they should be "having the time of their lives".

Household mixing was banned in Nottingham when the area went into Tier 2 restrictions on October 14.

Assistant Chief Constable Kate Meynell said: "This needs to stop. The claims that police presented as a barrier to the students' fun are astounding.

"How many fines do we have to give before the message is understood? We do not take pleasure in handing out fines and would much rather be in a situation where students could enjoy themselves but the reality is that if people do not follow the Covid-19 restrictions, more people will die."

05:44 AM

Coronavirus around the world...

  • Spain became the first western european country to exceed one million infections, while daily cases hit record highs in Italy and Britain, with Greece reporting a new peak since an outbreak in late February.

  • Poland's prime minister said he will recommend imposing the highest level of restrictions nationwide, after the country reported a new record of more than 10,000 daily cases.

  • Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, said the federal government would not buy a Covid vaccine from China's Sinovac.

  • Five people have died after getting flu shots in South Korea in the past week, raising concerns over the vaccine's safety.

  • South Africa faces a high risk of resurging infections that may lead to a review of lockdowns.

  • Mexican health officials estimated on Wednesday that the country has risen above one million coronavirus cases, though the figure includes both confirmed infections as well as suspected cases.

  • Turkey is considering reimposing some measures to stem a resurgence of cases, but will avoid throttling the economic recovery, a senior official said.

05:37 AM

Sri Lanka orders curfews over virus cluster

Sri Lankan police officers wear protective gear as they stand outside the parliament complex in Colombo - CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Sri Lankan police officers wear protective gear as they stand outside the parliament complex in Colombo - CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Authorities in Sri Lanka have closed the country's main fish market and widened the curfew in many parts of the island nation following a surge of infections related to a new cluster centred on a garment factory.

The government imposed a curfew on Thursday in parts of Colombo and some areas outside the capital.

Officials already isolated at least six villages elsewhere in the same province, where the new cluster was discovered early this month.

A cyclist in Colombo - LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP
A cyclist in Colombo - LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP

Authorities also suspended operations at Sri Lanka's main fish market after 49 traders tested positive.

Health workers are conducting tests on hundreds of other traders at the market on the outskirts of Colombo.

Schools and key public offices are also closed, public gatherings banned and restrictions imposed on public transport.

04:57 AM

Death of Oxford coronavirus vaccine volunteer in Brazil 'not related' to trial

The University of Oxford said a trial of its coronavirus vaccine would continue in Brazil amid reports of the death of a volunteer.

Oxford is in advanced stages of testing a Covid-19 immunisation being developed with AstraZeneca, with volunteers in countries including Brazil, the UK and the US.

The university said it had investigated the case but found "no concerns about safety" around the vaccine.

Oxford said in a statement: "All significant medical incidents, whether participants are in the control group or the Covid-19 vaccine group, are independently reviewed.

"Following careful assessment of this case in Brazil, there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial and the independent review in addition to the Brazilian regulator have recommended that the trial should continue."

Read the full story here.

04:31 AM

Researchers say masks do block coronavirus - but not perfectly

Tokyo mask - AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
Tokyo mask - AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

Japanese researchers have shown that masks can offer protection from airborne coronavirus particles, but even professional-grade coverings cannot eliminate contagion risk entirely.

Scientists at the University of Tokyo built a secure chamber with mannequin heads facing each other. One head, fitted with a nebuliser, simulated coughing and expelled actual coronavirus particles. The other mimicked natural breathing, with a collection chamber for viruses coming through the airway.

A cotton mask reduced viral uptake by the receiver head by up to 40 per cent compared to no mask. An N95 mask, used by medical professionals, blocked up to 90 per cent. However, even when the N95 was fitted to the face with tape, some virus particles still sneaked in.

When a mask was attached to the coughing head, cotton and surgical masks blocked more than 50 per cent of the virus transmission.

"There was a synergistic effect when both the virus receiver and virus spreader wore masks," the researchers wrote in a study published on Wednesday.

There has been a growing consensus among health experts that coronavirus can be spread through the air. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance this month to say the pathogen can linger in the air for hours.

A separate team of Japanese researchers used supercomputer simulations to show that humidity can have a significant effect on the airborne dispersion of virus particles. 

04:25 AM

Concern for shielding workers sacked during pandemic

Shielding workers who are sacked during the pandemic could have to wait three years for a tribunal amid a growing backlog of cases, Citizens Advice warns.

A new report by the charity shows that at the current rate, the backlog of outstanding claims for employment tribunals could pass half a million by spring of 2021.

The stark figure means that some employers may feel that they can act without fear of repercussions, according to the charity.

READ MORE: Shielding workers sacked in the pandemic could wait three years for a tribunal

03:35 AM

Chancellor to pledge extra help for Tier 2 firms

Rishi Sunak is poised to announce extra help for pubs and restaurants struggling to survive in areas under Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions.

The Chancellor is understood to be working on a compensation package for thousands of businesses whose trade is restricted by Government regulations after they complained of being left in limbo without support.

While firms such as pubs in Tier 3 that are forced to close by law can access business grants and the two-thirds wage subsidy, those in the next tier down cannot because the law does not force them to close.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak set to announce new help for pubs and restaurants in Tier 2 areas

03:34 AM

Comment: Has Britain been driven to the brink of a Covid civil war?

"Frankly, I think the experts have got it the wrong way round. Look at the figures. Only five per cent of Covid transmissions happen in pubs, restaurants and churches – whereas a whopping 75 per cent of transmissions happen at home.

"Logically, therefore, they shouldn’t be kicking us out of the pub and sending us home. They should be kicking out of our homes and sending us to the pub.

"The evidence is clear. Home is by far the most dangerous place to be.

"The public should be somewhere safer, cleaner and more hygienic, like their local Wetherspoon."

Read the rest of The Telegraph's Parliamentary Sketchwriter Michael Deacon's column here...

03:00 AM

First time: German cases rise by more than 10,000

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by more than 10,000 in a single day for the first time, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.

The institute recorded 11,287 new cases in its daily update for a total of 392,049. The previous day's increase was 7,830.

The reported death toll rose by 30 to 9,905, the tally showed.

While Germany's infection rates are lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating rapidly since the onset of cooler weather, with politicians warning that stricter social distancing rules may be needed if the trend continues.

Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday.

Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - deaths default
Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - deaths default

01:48 AM

US seeing 'distressing trend' with rising cases

The deputy director for infectious diseases for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says the United States is seeing a "distressing trend" with coronavirus cases increasing in nearly three-quarters of the country.

Dr Jay Butler said at a briefing on Wednesday that one of the factors in the rises, particularly in the Midwest, is that people are spending more time indoors with the arrival of cool weather.

He said "that smaller, more intimate gatherings of family, friends and neighbours may be driving infections as well" at which people pay less attention to the need for face coverings and social distancing.

Dr Butler said it was important for people not to let down their guard.

"I recognise that we are all getting tired of the impact that Covid-19 has had on our lives," he said.

"We get tired of wearing masks. But it continues to be as important as it's ever been."

Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart - cases default

01:44 AM

Obama urges voters to cast Trump out

Barack Obama campaigns on behalf of Joe Biden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Barack Obama campaigns on behalf of Joe Biden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Former President Barack Obama blasted Donald Trump's handling of coronavirus, his culpability in national discord and his overall fitness for the job on Wednesday as he made his first in-person campaign pitch for his former vice president Joe Biden.

With less than two weeks before election day in the US, Mr Obama used a drive-in campaign rally in Philadelphia to assure voters that r Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris could mend a fractured country.

He lauded the merits of democracy and citizenship as "human values" that the United States must again embrace.

"America is a good and decent place, but we've just seen so much nonsense and noise that sometimes it's hard to remember," Mr Obama said, after spending much of his 35-minute speech upbraiding Mr Trump as "incapable of taking the job seriously" and interested only in himself.

"I'm asking you to remember what this country can be.

"I'm asking you to believe in Joe's ability and Kamala's ability to lead this country out of these dark times and help us build it back better."

READ MORE: Barack Obama mocks Donald Trump's tweets on conspiracy theories and his handling of the virus

01:28 AM

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