UK coronavirus LIVE: Boris Johnson holds 4pm Downing Street TV briefing after Rishi Sunak pledges billions in Covid support

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  • October 22, 2020
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Rishi Sunak has unveiled billions of pounds of extra help for firms and workers hit by coronavirus restrictions

The package includes making the Job Support Scheme, which replaces the current furlough system, more generous. There will also be grants of £2,100 available for firms in Tier 2 areas of England, including London, primarily aimed at helping hospitality and leisure venues which have seen takings plummet due to a restrictions on households mixing.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to hold press conference at 4pm regarding the coronavirus situation. Mr Sunak and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance will also be answering questions at the event.

Meanwhile, figures show that just 59.6 per cent of close contacts of people who tested positive were reached through the Test and Trace system, its worst performance yet.

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Eleven people have been arrested for alleged public order offences after gardai intervened in anti-lockdown protests in Dublin

Campaigners marched through parts of the city in protest against the introduction of level five public health restrictions aimed at combating the spread of Covid-19.

They assembled at O’Connell Bridge and later moved to East Wall Road and onto Grafton Street. Many carried placards and signs opposing the lockdown, while others waved Irish flags.

Some of the protesters covered their faces with hoods and scarves while a few of the campaigners wore masks. Some held signs calling for an end to the lockdown and no “forced vaccines”. A full policing operation was in place as the protesters made their way through the streets.

Gardai said they were forced to intervene when protesters refused to move after they were informed they were in breach of public health regulations and were asked to disperse.


Supermarkets in Wales will not be allowed to sell items such as clothing and hardware during the Covid-19 firebreak lockdown, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said

Mr Drakeford said it will be “made clear” to supermarkets they are only able to sell products that are classed as “essential goods”. He said this would ensure a “level playing field” as many retailers will be forced to shut when the 17-day lockdown begins on Friday.

Shops selling food, off-licences and pharmacies can stay open but the likes of clothes stores will have to close. Mr Drakeford made the announcement at a Senedd committee in response to a question from Conservative MS Russell George who said it was “unfair” to force independent clothing and hardware retailers to close while similar goods were on sale in major supermarkets.

“In the first set of restrictions people were reasonably understanding of the fact that supermarkets didn’t close all the things that they may have needed to,” Mr Drakeford said.

“I don’t think that people will be as understanding this time and we will be making it clear to supermarkets that they are only able to open those parts of their business that provide essential goods to people and that will not include some of the things that Russell George mentioned which other people are prevented from selling.

“So, we will make sure there is a more level playing field in those next two weeks.”


Stormont ministers have vowed to formulate a new coronavirus strategy that will avoid the need for another lockdown in Northern Ireland

First Minister Arlene Foster said ramping up test and trace capacity, increasing hospital capacity, making businesses Covid-secure and introducing weekly testing regimes for key workers were among steps that could keep the region’s economy afloat in the absence of a vaccine.

“Obviously you could go down the road of having a circuit-breaker, then a break, then another circuit-breaker – we’re saying that we don’t think that is the way to proceed,” said the DUP leader.

Sinn Fein Junior Minister Declan Kearney said while nothing could be taken off the table, the Executive was not envisaging another lockdown.

Mr Kearney said there was a need for a “huge cultural and behavioural shift” to increase compliance with basic anti-infection measures, so more severe steps could be avoided again.


Ireland’s HSE chief executive has apologised to 2,000 people for asking them to notify their own close contacts after testing positive for Covid-19 due to a breakdown in the contact-tracing system

Paul Reid defended the way the HSE handled the matter, saying it had to make decisions “rapidly and quickly” to stay ahead of the virus. He admitted the Government should have been informed and said he “took responsibility” for not doing so.

Mr Reid said: “I personally, and on behalf of the HSE, apologise to those 2,000 people. It wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly but it was the right decision.

“It was a decision based on a clinical, an operational and a risk-based assessment of what was the right thing to do at that point of time as Monday moved into Tuesday and we were faced with a backlog with those number of cases.”

He made the comments at a HSE briefing on Thursday afternoon hours after Ireland entered its second lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus.


Nadine Dorries says she no longer has Covid-19 antibodies

Nadine Dorries told MPs she is “no longer immune” to coronavirus as she rejected the notion that there can be herd immunity without a vaccine.

The health minister, 62, was the first MP to be diagnosed with Covid-19 in March. The MP for Mid Bedfordshire self-isolated at home during her illness, which also saw her 84-year-old mother infected.

Read more here…


Nottingham City Council has tweeted to say talks are ongoing with the Government over the potential for Tier 3 restrictions in the region.

The council said: “Talks are ongoing between Council Leaders and Government about the current Covid-19 situation.

“Leaders continue to stress the need to protect the health and wellbeing of the population as well as local businesses. Further updates will be provided as the talks progress.”


Hospitals are making “every effort” to protect non-Covid services, despite being “challenged” by the rise in cases of the virus in Ireland, the HSE chief has said

Paul Reid said the health service was working hard to reduce the impact on other services as the number of cases continued to rise.

“Our hospitals continue to be challenged and are continuously making every effort to protect our non-Covid services,” he said. He added that every person with the virus who is in hospital has a “significant and disproportionate impact” on hospitals because of the precautions that they have to take.

There were 305 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospitals on Thursday morning. These included 35 people with the virus in ICU.

Mr Reid told a HSE briefing that 111,688 Covid-19 tests were carried out over the last seven days, of which 8,146 were positive. It equates to a positivity rate of 7.3 per cent, which is up from 5.6 per cent on the previous week.

The latest HSE data showed the average number of new cases over the past seven days was 1,166 per day, up 57 per cent on the previous week. The seven-day average is now 2.5 times higher than it was two weeks ago.


Canary Islands and Mykonos to come off UK quarantine list

Britons have been given a glimmer of hope of some winter sun after three popular holiday destinations were taken off the UK’s quarantine list.

Travellers returning to the UK from the Canary Islands, Mykonos and the Maldives from 4am on Sunday will no longer need to self-isolate for two weeks, the transport secretary announced.

Read more here…


Podcast: Calls for the government to u-turn on free school meals

Welcome to the Evening Standard’s daily podcast, The Leader, bringing you exclusive analysis and insight of the events setting the news agenda tonight.

The Leader is inspired by each evening’s Evening Standard’s editorial column, as it focusses on and dissects the day’s major news events across the capital, the country and the world. 


BREAKING: Infections rise by more than 21,000 in the UK:

The Government said that, as of 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 21,242 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 810,467.


UK coronavirus death toll rises by 189

The Government said a further 189 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, as of Thursday. This brings the UK total to 44,347.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 59,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.


Sir Patrick Vallance says it still looks like it will be next spring before there is a vaccine

The Government’s chief scientific adviser said: “Things are progressing well, there are vaccines that produce an immune response, they’re in phase three clinical trials, we should be seeing some data read-outs over the course of this year, but I remain of the view that the possibility of wider-spread use of vaccines isn’t going to be until spring or so next year by the time we get enough doses and enough understanding of the outputs to use them.

“Now we may get a few doses this side of Christmas, maybe something could happen, but I think we should more realistically be looking at spring, and of course there are no guarantees until the studies have read out.

“So we need to be cautious and carry on, but there is a good progress in terms of the vaccines.”


Chancellor says it was “not sustainable” to continue intervening in the economy forever

He said: “Whilst it is right to act I think with scale during a crisis like this to try and protect jobs and employment and ultimately that will protect our economy in the long-run.

“It’s also right that… we always have one eye on the long-term public finances because we want to make sure that we are careful with that.

“It is clearly not sustainable to carry on acting in this way forever, so as we continue intervening in the economy, it is right that it is targeted and effective.”


Boris Johnson says test and tracing system needs to be improved to provide faster coronavirus test results

The Prime Minister told the Downing Street press conference: “I share people’s frustrations and I understand totally why we do need to see faster turnaround times and we need to improve it.

“We need to make sure that people who do get a positive test self-isolate – that’s absolutely crucial if this thing is going to work in the way that it can.”


Chief scientific adviser stresses the need to reduce coronavirus infections to avoid placing pressure on the NHS and in turn affecting treatment for other conditions such as cancer

Sir Patrick Vallance told the Downing Street press conference: “One of the reasons that care for other conditions like cardiovascular disease and oncology, cancer care, gets affected is not the measures taken to stop Covid, it’s the patients with Covid who start to occupy beds.

“The more patients there are with Covid, the more the pressure on the healthcare system overall, and the more the other conditions get affected because people don’t have the capacity to deal with it.

“So it is very important to keep the numbers of infections down if we are to reduce the number of hospitalisations.”

Sir Patrick said that the R value was “about half” of its natural number, but he said: “As long as R is above one, the epidemic continues to grow and it will continue to grow at a reasonable rate. It is doubling perhaps every 14 to 18 days, unless the R comes below one.”


PM says achievements of test and trace have been “colossal”

Mr Johnson told the briefing: “About a million contacts have been reached but there is more that it can do if everybody complies once they have been contacted by test and trace.”


Reporter asks why financial measures had to be backdated for regions under tougher measures

The Prime Minister said in response that the issue was “one of fairness”.

“That’s what we’re trying to achieve in the last 10 days,” he said. “What we’re doing now is bringing in measures that are designed to help businesses who can’t trade as they normally would and are experiencing a fall in income. And we’re doing it across the whole country.”


BBC reporter asks why the Prime Minister and Government have gone to war with local leaders

Boris Johnson responded: “We’ve had great conversations with local leaders, Mayors and others in Liverpool… West Midlands, south Yorkshire and London, and everybody has come to the table, shown leadership and stepped up to the plate and agreed to bring the R down.

“I’m grateful to Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester. He’s agreed to help bring the R down with a package of measures.”


What will you do to encourage new businesses to emerge at this time?

The Prime Minister responded to the question from the member of the public by saying: “The UK is one of the most competitive environments to set up a business under any circumstances. We now have advantages of unprecedented low business rates, VAT and we’ve put in fantastic investments in a lot of businesses.”

Rishi Sunak added that the Government’s “future fund” could specifically help new businesses.