UK coronavirus blog LIVE: Covid self-isolation period 'to be reduced to seven days' amid calls for Dido Harding to quit over Test and Trace failures

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  • October 25, 2020
  • Comments Off on UK coronavirus blog LIVE: Covid self-isolation period 'to be reduced to seven days' amid calls for Dido Harding to quit over Test and Trace failures

Sir Bernard Jenki said the “immediate priority is to fill the vacuum of leadership in Test and Trace”,


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A senior Conservative MP has called for Tory peer Dido Harding, the boss of NHS Test and Trace, to be removed from her post.

Sir Bernard Jenkin, an ally of Boris Johnson and chairman of the parliamentary Liaison Committee, said the “immediate priority is to fill the vacuum of leadership in Test and Trace”, and suggested that Baroness Harding “could be given a well-earned break”.

The intervention, in an article for the Telegraph, comes after the Prime Minister said he shared “people’s frustrations” with the beleaguered system, which posted another round of poor results on Thursday.

Elsewhere, the Sunday Times reports that the Government is planning to cut self-isolation and quarantine requirements from 14 days to as little as seven, after the majority of people refused to comply.

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At least a month of new restrictions have been imposed across Italy to fight rising coronavirus infections

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has insisted people keep wearing masks outdoors, while cinemas, gyms, pools have been closed and an early curfew has been set for bars, cafes and restaurants.

The new decree goes into effect on Monday and lasts until November 24.

“Our aim is to protect health and the economy,” Mr Conte said on Sunday.

A day earlier, Italy passed the half-million mark in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases since February, when it became the first country to be stricken in Europe.

On Sunday, Italy registered 21,273 new confirmed cases and 128 deaths since the day before. Italy has reported a total of 37,338 virus deaths.


Latest figures on coronavirus patients in England hospitals is in:

A further 76 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 31,819, NHS England said on Sunday.

Patients were aged between 43 and 100. All except three, aged between 71 and 83, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between August 28 and October 24, with the majority being on or after October 21.

One other death was reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.


Supermarkets have “discretion” over the Welsh Government’s ban on selling non-essential items during the firebreak lockdown, says First Minister

Mark Drakeford said people may need to buy such products “for entirely unexpected reasons which they couldn’t have foreseen” during the 17-day period. The restriction has seen aisles cordoned off and plastic sheeting placed over items including children’s clothes, bedding and kettles.

Mr Drakeford told ITV Wales News: “I won’t need – I don’t think – to buy clothing over this two weeks and I think many, many people in Wales will be in that position too.

“For me, it won’t be essential. But I recognise that there will be some people who for entirely unexpected reasons which they couldn’t have foreseen will need to buy items.

“In those circumstances where those welfare reasons are at stake, we will make sure that our supermarkets understand they have the discretion to apply the rules differently.”

Mr Drakeford said ministers would meet with supermarkets on Monday to discuss the ban. He added: “They will want to do the right thing, I know, and our job is to be alongside them to make sure that is clear for everybody.”


Belfast barbers threaten Northern Ireland Executive with legal action over the region’s strict coronavirus restrictions

The barbers include Sean Lawlor of Cambridge Barbershop, Andrew Kavanagh of Camlough Barbers, David Lutton of The Corner Barbershop, and Padraig McShane of Cut N Edge.

The Northern Ireland Executive announced that close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, were among a range of businesses required to close until November 13.

Solicitors representing the barbers have asked to see evidence used by ministers to decide to close down those parts of the economy.

In a letter sent to the Executive, seen by PA news agency, the group raised concern about scientific material that was published last week.

The group say they are concerned about the “scientific, medical, epidemiological evidence” and how it has been interpreted by Government ministers.

“For one thing, the process by which the proposed respondents concluded that closing down ‘close contact’ services could (or would) reduce the R number by ‘up to 0.05’ is wholly unclear,” Phoenix Law letter states.

“We will be seeking disclosure of the raw data that was used to come to that figure and an explanation as to how these figures are calculated, to include some indication as to margin of error.”


Coronavirus cases rise by more than 1,000 in Ireland

There have been 1,025 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team said.

No new deaths linked to the virus were reported, leaving the death toll at 1,882, while the total number of infections is 57,128.

On Sunday, 315 Covid-19 patients were in hospital in Ireland, 38 in intensive care.


Fees for rearranging rail trips disrupted by Covid-19 to be scrapped

Travellers who face additional charges for rearranging advance railway journeys disrupted by coronavirus regulations will no longer have to pay the fees.

The Department for Transport announced the new temporary measures to ensure those who have bought an advance rail ticket that they can no longer use due to the restrictions will not have to pay the administration cost of rearranging their travel. 


Retailers using legal loophole in Ireland will face coronavirus enforcement action

The Tanaiste has warned that retailers using health regulation loopholes to stay open will face enforcement action. Leo Varadkar said he received confirmation on Sunday that mixed retail stores that do not abide by the new legislation are subject to penal regulations.

As part of Ireland’s lockdown restrictions, only shops selling essential items are allowed to open. Under government guidelines, retailers that have “discrete spaces” for essential and non-essential items have been told to separate the areas.

A number of businesses, including some sports and shoe shops, have remained open because they sell PPE and face masks, but Mr Varadkar said non-essential items must be closed off to the public.

“You need to abide by the regulations and abide by the spirit of the regulations,” he told RTE. “If you are a mixed retailer you should separate your stock and only sell items that are essential. If you are a big store that has groceries and clothes, you have to separate the clothes. General workwear is OK but not other clothing.”


Coronavirus cases have risen by more than 19,500 in the UK

The Government reported a further 19,790 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK on Saturday.

This brings the total number of infections since the pandemic began in the UK to 873,800.

A further 151 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, as of Thursday.

The total death toll in the UK now stands at 44,896.


Covid-19 R number “ideally” needs to drop below one before schools in Northern Ireland can reopen, says Communities Minister

Caral Ni Chuilin said the R value – which is the average number of people an infected person will pass the virus on to – was between 1.4 and 1.6 when the Executive made the decision to close schools for two weeks.

The Communities Minister, who is self-isolating at home after a family member tested positive for Covid-19, also warned about the behaviour of some when leaving and collecting pupils at school. Schools are to open again on November 2 following an extended mid-term break.

Ms Ni Chuilin was asked whether the Executive has set a R value target before reopening schools. “Ideally we need to get it below one,” she told BBC’s The View programme.

“The measures schools staff have adhered to have been great but we need to look at behaviour when we are dropping kids off and picking kids up. I know that schools have done their best but the issue is still with us. Today we have over 30 people in intensive care fighting for their lives.

“When we made those decisions there were 26 people. We still have a big job of work and we need to get that R rate down.”


Additional charges to rearrange journies disrupted by Covid to be scrapped

Additional charges for rearranging advance railway journeys disrupted by Covid-19 regulations will be scrapped, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

The DfT said the new measures will ensure passengers affected by changing levels of restrictions across the UK will not be left out of pocket.

The new temporary measures mean those who have bought an advance rail ticket that they can no longer use due to the restrictions will not have to pay the administration cost of rearranging their travel.

Passengers can claim discretionary rail travel vouchers or credit notes for unused advance tickets that are valid for up to a year, offering more flexibility than the current arrangements.

The Government is also allowing independent rail retailers to temporarily waive the usual change of journey admin fee for advance tickets.


Malaysia’s king rejects PM’s call for state of emergency

Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected on Sunday a request by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for him to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis, saying that he did not see the need.

The king’s rejection is a major setback for Muhyiddin, who is facing a leadership challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and infighting within his ruling coalition.

Critics have denounced his proposal for emergency rule as an attempt to maintain his grip on power as it would help him avoid a potential showdown in parliament.

A resurgence in coronavirus cases and a pandemic-battered economy has also added to his woes.


PM faces Tory revolt over school meals

Sir Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the Commons Liaison Committee of senior MPs, told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “I think we have to admit that we have misunderstood the mood of the country here.

“The public want to see the Government taking a national lead on this. I think the Government will probably have to think again on that, particularly if there’s going to be more votes in the House of Commons.”

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood said he regretted voting with the Government last week and that extending free school meals offered a “practical vehicle” for providing support to families.

“If there is popularity here to use, it would be churlish not to consider and I do hope that that’s where we’ll end up,” he told Times Radio.

Another former minister, Tim Loughton, said it had been a “mistake” not to continue with free meals during the holidays following the summer and that he was prepared to vote against the Government if there was another vote.

“Free school meals is just one of those totemic things – it is like the NHS, it can do no wrong,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend.

“For all the hassle this has caused, taking away from the really good measures the Government has taken across the board, I just don’t think it was worth the argument. I think it was just politically a mistake.”

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, suggested the continued wrangling was like something out of the pages of Charles Dickens.

“To have a debate about whether we should make sure that hungry and vulnerable children have enough to eat is something that is strikingly similar to something we’d expect to see in chapters of Oliver Twist – a novel published in the 19th century,” she told Sophy Ridge On Sunday.


Five more deaths in Wales

There have been a further 1,104 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 42,681.

Public Health Wales said five further deaths had been reported, with the total rising to 1,777.


Italy imposes new restrictions

Italy’s leader imposed at least a month of new restrictions across the country Sunday to fight rising coronavirus infections, shutting down gyms, pools and movie theaters, putting an early curfew on cafes and restaurants and mandating that people keep wearing masks outdoors.

Worried about crippling Italy’s stagnant economy, especially after 10 weeks of a severe lockdown earlier in the pandemic, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte opted against another heavy nationwide lockdown. The new decree goes into effect Monday and lasts until Nov. 24.

“Our aim is to protect health and the economy,” Conte said.

A day earlier, Italy surpassed a half million confirmed coronavirus cases since February, when it became the first country in Europe stricken by the pandemic. The last two days have seen daily new infections creep close to 20,000 and Italy still has Europe’s second-highest virus death toll after Britain, at 37,210 people.

Restaurant and bar owners had lobbied hard against the new measures, which orders them to close at 6 p.m. Most restaurants in Italy usually don’t even start to serve dinner before 8 p.m. Cafes and restaurants were allowed in recent months to re-open for outdoor dining or limited indoor seating. But many are struggling to pay their bills and some have already failed after tourists were banned from the United States and many other countries.


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England women’s match cancelled after positive test

England Women’s friendly against Germany on Tuesday has been cancelled due to a positive coronavirus test for a member of the Lionesses’ backroom staff.

Phil Neville’s side were due to face the two-time world champions in Wiesbaden, their first fixture since the SheBelieves Cup in March.

The Football Association said the decision had been made to protect the well-being of players and staff.


Cases soar in the Netherlands

The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands jumped by more than 10,000 in 24 hours, hitting a new record, data released by the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) on Sunday showed.

The RIVM reported 10,203 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The Dutch government imposed partial lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus on October 14, including the closure of all bars and restaurants in the country.


Scottish bishop calls for Xmas day truce with Covid

The Bishop of Paisley has called for an easing of restrictions on Christmas Day amid warnings of a “digital Christmas”.

Earlier this week, national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said large family gatherings were unlikely to be held on the holiday due to the prevalence of coronavirus in Scotland.

John Keenan, who also serves as the vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said strict restrictions on Christmas gatherings run “the risk of destroying all hope”.

While he conceded that Prof Leitch was trying to manage expectations, Mr Keenan wrote in the Sunday Times: “No one wants a digital Christmas.

“Squashing false expectations is one thing, but no one wants to dampen people’s hopes.”

The bishop asked if there could be a 24-hour “circuit-breaker” put in place on December 25, comparing it with the ceasefire on the Western Front during the First World War.

He said: “Perhaps we should consider a Christmas ‘circuit-breaker’. A 24-hour lifting of restrictions on gatherings and celebrations, a break in the war on Covid, just like the pause in the First World War on the Western Front in 1914, when the British and German troops laid down their guns and met in no man’s land to celebrate Christmas.”

He added: “Couldn’t we allow for one day of normality in the midst of our relentless war against the virus?

“Think of the hope and happiness that would give. A moment of joy in the midst of so much despair.