UK coronavirus LIVE: Government bans gatherings of more than six people in England as vaccine trials halted after patient falls ill

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  • September 9, 2020
  • Comments Off on UK coronavirus LIVE: Government bans gatherings of more than six people in England as vaccine trials halted after patient falls ill

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Boris Johnson is to tighten up social distancing rules by banning social gatherings of more than six people in England as the Government responds to a spike in coronavirus cases.

The Prime Minister will announce the new restrictions at a press conference later today, after the number of daily cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000. The new measures will come into force on Monday, applying to gatherings indoors and outdoors – including private homes – as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.

Meanwhile, Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine trails have been halted after a British patient fell ill. AstraZeneca said on Tuesday night that they are investigating whether the patient’s reported side effect is connected with the vaccine.

It comes after Tuesday saw the highest death toll since July with a further 30 people dying after contracting coronavirus, bringing the total to 41,584. More than 2,400 new cases were also confirmed as the spike in cases saw a new local lockdown imposed in Bolton.

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Matt Hancock said he is sure the UK arts sector “will bloom again” once we have a vaccine.

The Health Secretary made the comments in response to a threat from Andrew Lloyd Webber to move his shows abroad if British theatre does not get more government support.

Speaking to LBC, Mr Hancock said: “The UK has always, for centuries, been at the heart of theatre and the arts and I am sure that it will bloom again.

“One of the reasons that we are pushing so hard on the testing is in order to test people so that we can get our theatres full again and get our sports (stadiums) full of crowds.

“That is part of the solution that everybody wants to see, and for that I am relying on the technology working, the tests working and again like the vaccine that is currently being validated by the scientists.”

Mr Hancock said the Government is working with theatres to try to get them fully open as quickly as possible.


Matt Hancock said the ban on gatherings of more than six people will be in place for the “foreseeable future”.

The Health Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s absolutely therefore the foreseeable future. I really hope we can turn this round before Christmas.

“I think that, in a pandemic, Christmas is a long way off.

“Three months is a long time in a pandemic and I very much hope this strong rule, together with the local action we’ve taken in places like Bolton… I very hope much therefore this can work to do that by Christmas.”


Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it will be compulsory for pubs and restaurants to take customers’ details for the Test and Trace programme.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re also going to enforce more strictly the rules around hospitality, including for instance you need to give your contact details when you go to hospitality, which has so far been voluntary.

“Large swathes of the hospitality industry have followed it.

“Some have chosen not to, so we’re going to make that compulsory as well.”


Matt Hancock has said he is not too concerned over pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca’s decision to halt vaccine trials after a volunteer suffered an adverse reaction.

The Health Secretary told LBC: “This is a normal part of a vaccine development that, when you find a problem, the system is paused while you investigate that particular problem.

“What it underlines is that we won’t bring forward a vaccine unless it is safe, no matter how enthusiastic I am for a vaccine.”

He added: “The good news is that we have on order many different vaccines – 340 million doses in total, which is far more than we need for the UK population, so that if one doesn’t come off then we have other irons in the fire.

“This is a pause not a stop so I am hopeful (AstraZeneca) will be able to resume but only if it is safe to do so.”


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North Carolina caps outdoor gatherings at 50 people to curb the spread of coronavirus:

Trump ignores coronavirus crowd limits as thousands attend rally

Donald Trump ignored coronavirus crowd limits as thousands of largely maskless supporters attended a rally in North Carolina.

The state caps outdoor gatherings at 50 people to curb the spread of coronavirus, but the US president appeared to disregard those rules on Tuesday “As far as the eye can see,” Mr Trump said, revelling at the sight of people flouting public health guidelines.


Matt Hancock has said that the new rules on social distancing will apply to students gearing up for university freshers week.

Mr Hancock told LBC the goal was to get the rise in infections under control so that “we can have the sort of Christmas that everyone wants to see”.

He said he was “absolutely” expecting students to limit themselves to parties of six during freshers week, saying: “Obviously it is not something I would want to do, but unfortunately, yes, because otherwise we know the spread of the disease is going to keep going up and up.

“We know that that leads to more people in hospital and more people dying.”


Matt Hancock has insisted the public should follow the new rules on social distancing despite the Government’s willingness to break international law over the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

“The Government has a number of international obligations and prime amongst them is the Northern Ireland peace process and the rules of not gathering in groups of more than six it is being brought in so it is really simple, really clear and super simple for people to understand,” he said.

He told LBC: “Obviously we are determined to deliver Brexit at the end of the transition arrangements with the EU, there has been good work going on, I very much hope and expect that we will get a deal.”

“We are putting the peace process in Northern Ireland first and I think everybody would understand why we have decided to do that.”


Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out a second lockdown, despite assurances by the Prime Minister.

Speaking to LBC, Mr Hancock said: “Our goal is to avoid having to do anything more drastic by people following the rules.”

But he would not rule out a return to lockdown, saying: “I wouldn’t make a vow like that.

“You wouldn’t expect me to – I am the Health Secretary in the middle of a pandemic where we are trying to keep the country safe.”

But he added he “hoped” lockdown could be avoided, saying: “The number of cases is largely driven by people socialising.”


Fashion chain Quiz has said that around 15 of its stores are to remain closed permanently after a major restructuring.

It told investors that 48 of the 75 stores it operated prior to the pandemic have reopened, with it expecting to increase this to 60 sites in total.

The company also said that revenues plunged by 77% to £13 million for the five months to August 31 after it was hammered by the coronavirus lockdown.


His comments came as people could not access the Government website to book a test this morning. 

Hancock ‘rejects’ test and trace system is failing as problems persist

Matt Hancock said he “completely rejects” that the coronavirus test and trace system is “failing” while people were still unable to access the booking site this morning. 

The Health Secretary defended the system as “excellent” despite the growing criticism that people are unable to book tests. 


Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the public not to get coronavirus tests unless they have symptoms in order to stop people having to travel long distances to get tested.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We have seen this quite sharp rise in the last couple of weeks of people without symptoms who don’t have a good reason coming forward to get a test.

“There have been stories of whole schools, or parts of schools, being all sent to get a test – that is not acceptable, that is not an appropriate use of our testing resources.

“I’ve even heard stories of people saying, ‘I’m going on holiday next week therefore I’m going to get a test.’ No – that is not what the testing system is there for.

“We’ve got to be firmer, I’m afraid, with the rules around eligibility for testing.”


Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it is still safe for people to return to work because “we have Covid-secure offices”.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said: “(Workplaces) are under health and safety legislation and businesses are legally obliged to follow health and safety legislation.

“All of our evidence is that the vast majority of the transmission that we are seeing is essentially in social circumstances, not at work.”

He added: “We have got to protect livelihoods through this crisis as well as lives and the strategy is to protect education, to protect work, we are therefore bringing in tighter rules on social engagement because that’s where we are seeing the majority of the transmission.”


Matt Hancock was asked if individuals would be allowed to break the new laws on social distancing “in a limited and specific way” – the way the Government claims to be planning to do with the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The Health Secretary told Times Radio: “No, this is incredibly important for keeping people safe, it is incredibly important for stopping the spread and therefore protecting education, protecting work.

“Obviously we are trying to protect livelihoods and protect education while stopping the spread of the virus.”

Mr Hancock said that the series of changes made as the UK lifted lockdown restrictions had made the rules on social gatherings “more complicated than they needed to be”.

“We are making this change to make (the rules) super simple,” he said.


Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the pause to the Oxford vaccine trial was not necessarily a setback and that it has already overcome one such delay.

He told Sky News: “It is obviously a challenge to this particular vaccine.

“It’s not actually the first time it has happened to the Oxford vaccine and it’s a standard process in clinical trials.”

Asked if it was a setback, Mr Hancock said: “Not necessarily, it depends on what they find when they do the investigation.

“There was a pause earlier in the summer and that was resolved without a problem.”


Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted the public must follow the coronavirus rules despite the Government admitting it was willing to break international law over Brexit.

He told Sky News: “Abiding by these rules is absolutely vital to protect life. We’ve seen the increase in the number of cases sadly in the last few days. We’ve seen that across Europe there’s a second wave that many countries have experienced.

“Some of those countries have then got that second wave under control. If you look at what’s happened in Belgium they saw an increase and then they’ve brought it down, whereas in France and Spain that just hasn’t happened.

“On the question of the Northern Ireland Protocol the Government has a number of international obligations and the primary amongst those in this context is about protecting the peace process.

“In the case of coronavirus everybody understands how important it is that we together keep this under control, we can’t do it individually because of the nature of the disease.

“So, yes, it is incredibly important that everybody follows these new rules and we’ll be bringing in strict enforcement.”


The Health Secretary said the Government was moving to “simplify” the rules around social gatherings by limiting groups to six either indoors or outdoors.

Speaking to Times Radio, Matt Hancock said: “It will be much easier for the police to enforce because the previous rules where you had two households it was much harder to work out what was and wasn’t OK.”

Fines for those who breach the rules will range from £100 to £3,200, the Health Secretary said, although there will be exceptions for events such as weddings, funerals and Christenings.

“We have got to bring in clear, stricter rules this autumn unfortunately to stop the spread of the virus,” he said.

“One of the things we heard back including from the police directly was that we needed a simpler set of rules that are very straightforward, (that) everybody can understand, and we will be publishing those rules very clearly and then enforcing against them.”


The Health Secretary has said he “completely rejects” suggestions that the test and trace system is failing.

He defended the test and trace system as “excellent” despite growing criticism, and said problems have been caused by people without symptoms requesting tests.

Questioned over whether the system was failing, he told Sky News: “I completely reject the accusation, in fact quite the contrary.”

He said the UK has the biggest system per capita in Europe and the highest testing capacity “we’ve ever had”.

“However in the last couple of weeks we’ve seen an increase in demand, including an increase in demand from people who are not eligible for tests, people who don’t have symptoms,” he added.

“We’ve seen an increase of about 25% of people who are coming forward that don’t have symptoms and aren’t eligible.”


Mr Hancock has defended the test and trace programme, saying that they are testing more people than ever. 

But he addressed problems with a rise in demand, saying: “We have seen an increase in demand who are not eligible for a test. 

“You are eligible for a test if you have symptoms with coronavirus.”


Matt Hancock is speaking on Sky News about the new measures that are expected to be announced earlier today: 


Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport as they return from Greece.

The Government added the islands of Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos, also known as Zante to the quarantine list. From 4am on Wednesday, arrivals from the seven Greek islands will need to self-isolate for 14 days – but mainland Greece will maintain its quarantine-exemption.