UK coronavirus: Gove says lockdown could be extended; Starmer rejects union calls to close schools – as it happened

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  • November 1, 2020
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23,254 people test positive in the UK, with 162 further deaths

On Sunday, 23,254 people were tested positive for Covid-19. A further 162 people have died within 28 days of a positive test.

The daily dashboard also shows there are 1,442 more patients in hospital. For a closer look at the numbers and the situation in your are, you can check the government’s website here.

Summary

  • Gove and Sir Keir Starmer have both suggested that schools should stay open, even if that meant other lockdown measures having to remain in place beyond 2 December. (See 12.22pm.) But Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, Labour metro mayors for Greater Manchester and Liverpool city region respectively, have said schools in the north-west should close for a period to drive the virus down. Burnham said:


I would suggest a period of two weeks’ closure towards the second half of November so that schools have time to prepare online learning, but that would create the conditions for the biggest drop in cases that we could achieve and it would then create the conditions for some kind of Christmas for more families because they need it right now.


Apparently all votes count equally, but all voters demonstrably don’t to this government and the support you get from the chancellor of the exchequer depends on a horizontal line drawn across the country and on which side of it you sit …

I can assure the government that the people of the north won’t easily forget that they were judged to be worth less than their southern counterparts.

  • YouGov has published a snap poll suggesting that people in England back the new lockdown by around three to one.


YouGov poll on English lockdown Photograph: YouGov

That’s all from me for today.

Our coverage continues on our global coronavirus live blog.

Updated

These are from Nadine Dorries, a health minister.

Nadine Dorries ??#StayAlert
(@NadineDorries)

Children under school age who are with their parents will not count towards the limit on two people meeting outside. This will mean that a parent can see a friend or family member with their baby or young children.

November 1, 2020

Nadine Dorries ??#StayAlert
(@NadineDorries)

Children and adults who are dependent on round-the-clock care, such as those with severe disabilities, will also be included. The guidance will be updated to reflect this.

November 1, 2020

This government briefing explains exactly what the rules are that will apply in England under the new lockdown from 5 November.

Scotland has recorded 1,148 more coronavirus cases, the Scottish government has recorded.

That is 4% up on yesterday (1,101) but 12% down on last Sunday (1,303).

There are 1,193 Covid patients in hospital, the same as the figure for the previous day, but 17% up on the total published last Sunday (1,016).

And there have been six more reported deaths. That is well below the figure for yesterday (24), but the reported death figures covering the weekend often tend to be low for administrative reasons.

Updated

Sir Desmond Swayne, one of the Conservative MPs most opposed to a second lockdown, told Sky News that the policy announced by the PM yesterday would have “disastrous consequences”. He said:


I’m worried about the disastrous consequences for unemployment, for wrecked businesses, for years of under-investment while we try and pay this off, when the reality is that the number of deaths for the time of year is normal and expected.

It is very difficult to believe scientists who tell you that there is a deadly pandemic taking place when there are no excess deaths beyond the normal five-year average.

I think we have chosen a course which is worse than deaths from the virus.

Swayne’s claim that there are no excess deaths may be based on ONS figures for the summer.

But the most recent ONS report on deaths in England and Wales shows that weekly death rates are now starting to run at above the five-year average again.

This chart shows excess death figures (the gap between the dark blue line, all deaths, and the dotted black line, the five-year average) for this year.


Excess deaths in England and Wales Photograph: ONS

And this chart shows excess deaths by region in England and Wales in the week ending 16 October, the most recent week for which figures are available. All regions apart from the south-east of England are recording excess deaths.


Excess deaths in week ending 16 October, by region Photograph: ONS

Burnham and Rotheram call for school closures to help drive down Covid in north-west

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, has called for schools in his region to close for a period during the lockdown to help drive down the virus. He was speaking at a joint conference with Steve Rotheram, the mayor of Liverpool city region, who also backed the proposal. Burnham said:


It’s my view, and it’s shared by Steve, that we do need to see a period of closure in our schools if we are to get those cases right down, and if we are to avoid a scenario where large parts of the north-west are simply put back in tier 3 coming out of this.

There is more coverage on the Manchester Evening News’ live blog of the press conference.

The Burnham/Rotheram proposal puts them at odds with their party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, who wants to prioritise schools staying open. The government is also opposed to school closures. See 12.22pm.

Here is a question from BTL I can help with.

At the start of the pandemic a lot of the talk at the press conferences focused on R, the reproduction number, but, as you say, it does not tell us anything about the speed with which a disease is spreading. A disease like HIV could have a relatively high R even though there could be a long gap between one person with the virus infecting another.

That’s why the scientists place just as much weight on the growth rate. That shows how much the number of new infections is increasing per day. The Government Office for Science is now publishing estimates for this every week, although in practice the modellers have been using these numbers right from the start. The growth rate also determines the doubling time – the time it takes for cases to double – which is another metric much quoted by the experts.

There is a good article explaining the differences between R and the growth rate here.

Thousands have died because lockdown was delayed, says Liverpool’s mayor

Although Sir Keir Starmer chose not to explicitly argue that more people would die because Boris Johnson ignored Labour’s call for a lockdown in September when he was interviewed by Andrew Marr this morning (see 12.22pm), Joe Anderson, the Labour mayor of Liverpool, did make that case in an interview this morning on BBC Breakfast. Asked for his reaction to the PM’s decision to announce a lockdown, Anderson said he felt “a mixture of emotions”. He went on:


One, of clear confusion as to why the prime minister and this government never responded to Sage on September 21 and acted then.

So, relief that it’s finally been done but real contempt has been shown by this government for the people who advised for it [another lockdown], Sage, and also leaders like me and others that were calling for it six, seven weeks ago.

I think there’s now a crisis of confidence in relation to this government and their ability to actually manage this.

It’s clear to me that the government made the choice to put people’s health and the health concerns of the nation second and listen to Tory rightwing MPs and people arguing about the economy.

I think as a result of that it’s very, very clear that thousands of people have died.

Anderson’s brother Bill died in October after contracting coronavirus.


Joe Anderson. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Here is video of Sir Keir Starmer telling Andrew Marr that schools must remain open.


Keir Starmer says schools must remain open in second Covid lockdown – video

Sunday morning broadcast interviews – Summary and analysis

The main Sunday morning political TV interviews are now over. Here is a summary of the highlights.

  • Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, has said the England-wide lockdown announced by the PM yesterday could be extended. It is due to last until 2 December. But Gove accepted it could last longer. (See 8.43am.) At his press conference last night Boris Johnson did not rule out the lockdown having to stretch beyond four weeks, but Gove was more direct when acknowledging this this morning. Sir Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust and a member of Sage, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, also said the lockdown might need to be extended. (See 9.31am.)
  • Gove and Sir Keir Starmer both suggested that schools should stay open, even if that meant other lockdown measures having to remain in place beyond 2 December. The main difference between this lockdown and the one in the spring is that schools are staying open. But this will have a big impact on its effectiveness. According to a Sage analysis, mass school closures could reduce R, the reproduction number, by between 0.2 and 0.5. That would be more effective than most other lockdown measures, such as getting people to work from home (which reduces R by between 0.2 and 0.4) and closing bars and restaurants (which reduces R by between 0.1 and 0.2). The only measure with a similar impact would be closing universities (which would also reduce R by between 0.2 and 0.5). Asked if the government would definitely keep schools open whatever happened, Gove said: “Yes, absolutely.” Asked if schools would stay open even if that meant the lockdown having to be extended, he said: “We want to keep schools open.” When pressed for clarification, he said:


I don’t believe it would be that case, but I do believe that we want to keep schools open and I believe that the measures that we are putting in place will enable us to do so.

Starmer also said that for Labour keeping schools open was a priority – even though the National Education Union wants them to close during the four-week lockdown. He said:


Schools must stay open. It’s really important. The harm that children are caused by not being in school is huge, so they must stay open.

Gove and Starmer spoke after Sage member Sir Jeremy Farrar suggested schools might need to close. Farrar said:


We know that transmission, particularly in secondary schools is high.

Personally I think this is definitely the lockdown to put in place now but if that transmission, particularly in secondary schools, continues to rise then that may have to be revisited in the next four weeks in order to get R below one and the epidemic shrinking.

  • Gove suggested more help might be announced for self-employed workers affected by the lockdown. Asked if they might be offered further support, he said:


The chancellor and his team are looking at every aspect of economic support and more will be said in the days ahead about how we provide it.

  • Gove rejected claims that yesterday’s announcement showed that the government was wrong to reject Sage’s call for a short nation lockdown in September. He argued that it had been reasonable to try a regional approach, that other European countries had done the same thing and that last night Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, himself said, when asked at the No 10 press conference if the government had left it too late, that “there is basically no perfect time [to act]”. See 10.16am. Whitty was sounding relatively supportive of the PM yesterday, although saying that there is no perfect time for a lockdown is not the same as saying acting late is just as good as acting early.


Well these measures are necessary, everybody has seen the figures, the infection rates, the admission rates and tragically the death rates, and that’s why three weeks ago we called for a circuit-break.

Now at that stage the government rejected it out of hand, ridiculed it, now only to do precisely the same thing – but there’s a cost to that delay.”

The lockdown now will be longer, it’ll be harder, we’ve just missed half term and there’s a very human cost to this.

On the day that Sage recommended a circuit-break, the daily death rate was 11, yesterday it was 326, so there’s a very human cost to this, but the measures are necessary.

There is nothing more satisfying in life than being able to say ‘I told you so’, but Starmer was relatively restrained in pointing out that the PM is now doing exactly what Labour proposed last month. When Starmer spoke about the “very human cost”, he also seemed to be implying that more people will die than would have done otherwise because of the government’s delay. But he did not say that explicitly – perhaps anxious to avoid accusations of shroud waving.

  • Starmer said Labour would vote in favour of the restrictions on Wednesday. This means there is no chance of the lockdown restrictions not being passed. But the Labour move may mean that Tory MPs opposed to the lockdown feel more comfortable rebelling (because it won’t be a make-or-break vote for No 10.) Johnson has a working majority of around 87. But recently 42 Tories voted against the government on a coronavirus restriction policy (the 10pm compulsory closing time).
  • Starmer challenged the government to use the lockdown to fix test and trace. He said:


The government has to keep its side of the bargain here because if they don’t use this time to fix test, trace and isolate, then I think December 2 will be a review date not an end date.

Because for months and months and months they’ve promised a world-beating test, trace and isolate system which is vital… it’s been busted for months.

Use the time to fix it because otherwise we’re going to be back in this cycle for months and months and months.

  • Starmer said that ideally he would like to see a four-nation approach to lockdown. But it was for the PM to lead on that, he said.
  • Starmer said Jeremy Corbyn, his predecessor, should “reflect” on his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report on antisemitism in the Labour party. Corbyn was suspended by the party on Thursday after suggesting, in his response to the report, that the extent of the problem had been exaggerated. Asked why that happened, Starmer said:


Well I was very clear in my response to the commission report on Thursday, which found that the Labour Party had acted unlawfully and there’d been a failure of leadership, that we needed to accept the findings, accept the recommendations and implement them and apologise.

But I also went on to say that under my leadership we will root out antisemitism and that those that deny or minimise anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and say it’s just exaggerated or part of a factional fight are part of the problem.

I was therefore very disappointed in Jeremy’s response where he appeared to suggest it was exaggerated etc, and I’d invite Jeremy just to reflect on what he said on Thursday and think about what he said because I think for most people what they wanted from the Labour party on Thursday was an honest recognition of the problem and an apology, a line in the sand and a constructive way to move forward, which is what I want for the Labour party.

He also said there was no need for Labour to engage in civil war over this. See 9.51am. Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, has accused Starmer of triggering “civil war”.

  • Gove denied being the person who leaked information about the planned lockdown to the media on Friday.
  • Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the outgoing director general of the CBI, said a second lockdown would be a “real body blow” for business. She said:


It’s an incredibly difficult time for business – this is a real body blow. So many firms have worked very hard to become Covid-safe, they have been resilient through the first phase, so this is undoubtedly very tough.

  • Sir Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust and a member of Sage, said he expected more than one coronavirus vaccine to be approved before Christmas. He said:


We will know before the end of the year from the early vaccines that are now in late stage clinical trials … I believe that more than one of those vaccines will prove to be effective and safe.

They may not be perfect, we’ve become used to perfect vaccines, but generally these first wave of vaccines are not perfect but they’re safe and they are effective and they will change the nature of the pandemic.

Updated

The government has finally vowed not to allow chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef on British supermarket shelves, defying demands from the US that animal welfare standards be lowered as part of a future trade deal.

The international trade secretary, Liz Truss, and environment secretary, George Eustice, have also revealed the government will be putting the recently established trade and agriculture commission on a statutory footing with a new amendment to the agriculture bill.

“We are announcing today that it will be made a statutory body which will give independent advice on trade deals as they go through parliament,” they said in an article in the Mail on Sunday.

The move is a significant U-turn for the government, which had rejected Lord Curry’s amendment to the bill to strengthen the Commission’s role and legally ban any food that did not meet British standards in imports post Brexit.

The commission, on which the National Farmers Union and the Food and Drink Federation sit, will now be asked to produce an independent report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal the government signs after Brexit.

Their recommendations whether to accept or reject the deal will then be laid in parliament at the start of the 21-day scrutiny period under the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (CRAG) process.

Truss and Eustice also gave the clearest commitment yet to ban meat in the US from animals not raised to British standards. They said:


Chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef are already banned in the UK and we will not negotiate to remove that ban in a trade deal.

Updated

Tobias Ellwood also told Times Radio that Boris Johnson should put the government on a “war footing” in dealing with coronavirus because it was being “overwhelmed”. He said:


Our cabinet structure has not changed. It’s still the same peacetime tried-and-tested system, but it’s very risk averse. We should have moved onto a war footing with slicker decision-making and splitting policy creation versus operational delivery.

I’m afraid this was treated as if it was a terrorist attack or a flooding, where there was a Cobra, a national security council meeting, and then we made some plans and then we’ve tried to keep it going.

This is very different. It should be comparable to where we were in the Second World War, where you have an ongoing crisis, where the messaging is going to change quite regularly …

We haven’t really ever moved to that structure, which is far more efficient in its decision making, separating the daily business of government. The consequence of that is that the bandwidth in Number 10 is just overwhelmed.


Keir Starmer leaving BBC HQ this morning after his interview with Andrew Marr. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters