More than half the population of England is preparing for tougher lockdown restrictions from midnight tonight as London and other “high risk” areas enter Covid Tier 2.
The capital will join areas including Essex and Elmbridge in seeing strict new measures imposed, with millions of people banned from mixing with other households indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.
It comes as scientific advisers and local leaders continue to call for so-called “circuit-breaker” shutdowns, with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford confirming plans to introduce “a new set of national rules for the whole of Wales”.
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No end in site for Welsh cross-border travel ban
First Minister Mark Drakeford has said he cannot give a guaranteed date when the travel ban will end between Wales and areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus.
“That will depend upon the way that events and circumstances unfold over the next couple of weeks,” Mr Drakeford said.
“As I’ve said many times, the fewer people we meet, the fewer journeys we make, the safer we all are, and our arrangements on travel are just designed to reinforce all of that.
“So, while they are necessary to turn back the flow of this deadly virus, while they are necessary to protect our NHS, while they’re necessary to save people’s lives, then those arrangements will have to stay in place.”
Pret A Manger has said it plans to shut six more shops and cut around another 400 jobs due to the coronavirus crisis.
The food chain’s recovery slowed in the face of recently tightened restrictions and rising case numbers.
In August, Pret axed 2,800 roles as part of a restructuring which saw it close 30 sites.
It comes as the Government introduced a three tier lockdown system, bringining in tighter measures to try and curb the rise in Covid-19 cases.
Sobering news for north Londoners here:
London is moving into the Tier 2 category of coronavirus restrictions following a surge of Covid-19 infections across the capital.
However the latest Public Health England (PHE) data indicates the virus is spreading at a faster rate in boroughs north of the River Thames.
Eight boroughs have now gone above the key threshold of 100 new cases a week per 100,000 population.
With the exception of Richmond of Thames, nine out of 10 boroughs with the highest coronavirus rates are north of the Thames.
Could a circuit-breaker save Christmas?
First Minister Mark Drakeford said it is hoped that a circuit-breaker in Wales would give the “breathing space” needed to get through to Christmas “without further disruptions of this sort”.
“It is very important to say a circuit-breaker is not a magic wand of any sort – it doesn’t make coronavirus disappear,” Mr Drakeford said.
“What it does is to buy us time to be able to manage the difficulties we face over a longer period, and in a better planned way.
“Our ambition is that if we do, and it’s still an if, if we do decide on a circuit-breaker, that will be sufficient to take us through to Christmas.”
‘We have to level with you – normal life isn’t coming back any time soon’
The public health directors for Lancashire, Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool made a joint plea to the public to stick to the rules.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Professor Dominic Harrison and Dr Arif Rajpura said: “We are at a very dangerous phase of the pandemic.
“Infection rates are going up across Lancashire, hospitals are getting busier and people are quite frankly sick of coronavirus and just want life to return to normal.
“That’s something we all want, but we have to level with you – it isn’t happening any time soon. All of our lives have been affected by coronavirus and will continue to be so until we have a vaccine. Now that Lancashire has entered Tier 3 the next month is critical to getting the virus under control.
“In the meantime, as public health professionals we have a responsibility to do all we can to protect the people of Lancashire and we are working night and day to do so.
“But you also have a role to play as well to protect yourself, your family and your community. By sticking to the restrictions – even though we know it’s hard – and following the simple guidance around hands, face and space you will help limit the spread of coronavirus.”
Read more on what’s happening in Lancashire here:
Scotland’s death toll up by 9 as cases jump by 1,196
Scotland has recorded nine deaths of coronavirus patients in the past 24 hours, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
This takes the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 2,594.
Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, the First Minister said 1,196 people have tested positive in the past 24 hours.
This means 45,232 people have now tested positive for the virus across the country – up from 44,036 the day before.
Of the new cases, 416 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 309 in Lanarkshire, 161 in Lothian, and 104 in Ayrshire and Arran.
There are 629 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, up by 27 in 24 hours.
Of these patients, 58 were in intensive care, up by six.
Stark warnings as the capital gets ready for new restrictions:
The boss of trade association UK Hospitality has warned that 200,000 Londoners in the industry could “lose their jobs this weekend”.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the organisation’s chief executive Kate Nicholls gave the stark estimation while discussing the new Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions that will come into effect in London from midnight tonight.
Nicholls said that the second tier of restrictions would put a greater financial strain on restaurants and bars than the highest tier, which would see bars close.
PM refuses to commit to extra funds for Manchester
Pressed on the calls for extra financial support for Greater Manchester, the Prime Minister said: “As I say, other local leaders have come forward and joined in the tiering system, showing the kind of leadership that I think is necessary.
“This is about saving lives.
“This is about us joining together locally and nationally to get the R down, to make these regional restrictions, this tiering system, work and to save lives.
“Everybody in Greater Manchester and all the areas that are still finding it difficult should think about it.”
Wales to thrash out national circuit-breaker plans over the weekend
First Minister Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government will be meeting over the weekend to discuss a circuit-breaker lockdown and announce any decisions on Monday.
He said such a lockdown would be a “new set of national rules for the whole of Wales”.
“These are incredibly difficult decisions and we have not yet come to a final conclusion about whether a firebreak is the best way to act,” Mr Drakeford said.
“Ministers here will be meeting throughout the weekend to discuss this further and we will report the outcome of those decisions to you on Monday.”
Mr Drakeford said a circuit-breaker lockdown was “the option that is most actively under consideration”.
More on plans for a circuit-breaker lockdown in Wales:
First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed that the Welsh Government is looking “very carefully” at introducing a time-limited circuit-breaker lockdown in Wales.
Mr Drakeford said: “Here in the Welsh Government, we are looking very carefully at introducing a time-limited firebreak, also known as a circuit-breaker, of the type recommended by Sage, the UK’s expert scientific advisory group, and by our own advisers here in Wales.
“This would be a short, sharp shock to the virus which could turn back the clock, slowing down its spread and buying us more time and vital capacity in the health service.
“A firebreak would also, however, be a short, sharp shock to all our lives. We will all have to stay at home once again, to save those lives.
“But this time, it will be for weeks and not months. We are considering a two or three-week firebreak. The shorter the period, the sharper the measures will have to be.”
PM calls on Manchester leaders to show leadership
Boris Johnson said he was concerned about the rise in Covid-19 cases in Greater Manchester and called for local leaders to act.
He told broadcasters: “I am, I have to say, concerned about what’s happening in Manchester where the levels of infection are rising steeply, the level of hospitalisation is rising steeply and we do need to see action.
“I’d much rather not impose things, I’d much rather that we were able to work out something together with local authorities, with the mayor in Manchester.
“But it is up to local leaders to show the kind of leadership that we have seen in Liverpool, in Lancashire and in London.”
Young people in England still seeing highest rates of infection – ONS
When modelling the level of infection among different age groups, the ONS said the highest rates in England continue to be among older teenagers and young adults (from school year 12 through to age 24), and secondary school-aged children (school years seven to 11).
The ONS added there are now also more signs of growth in the age groups covering 25 to 69-year-olds.
Health minister self-isolating after contact tests positive
Health minister Nadine Dorries has stayed away from the House of Commons after a close contact tested positive for Covid-19, MPs have heard.
Ms Dorries was due to respond for the Government on the Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill, which seeks to ban certain cosmetic procedures for children in England.
Health minister Edward Argar deputised at the despatch box and explained: “I know (Ms Dorries) would very much wish to be here today given her work with (Conservative MP Laura Trott) on her Bill.
“However, and she’s asked me to say this, as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 she is, as always, doing the right thing, and staying away from the House.”
Ms Dorries was the first sitting MP to test positive for Covid-19, revealing the news on March 11.
She later said it took her seven days to “turn the corner” and begin to recover from the virus but she returned to work on March 24.
Wales could soon impose circuit-breaker lockdown
First Minister Mark Drakeford has said that the Welsh Government is “looking very carefully” at introducing a circuit-breaker lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus in Wales.
He warned the country is facing a “very serious winter” and has reached a “critical point”.
The R number for Wales is now 1.4, with around 2,500 people in the country being infected with Covid-19 every day.
“These figures would have been much higher if we hadn’t acted quickly and early to put local and national measures in place,” Mr Drakeford said.
“We are still in a better place in Wales than in any other part of the United Kingdom.”
Welsh travel ban on UK hotspots to come into force
First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed that a travel ban preventing people from areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus from entering Wales will come into force.
In a statement, Mr Drakeford said the number of Covid-19 cases across Wales was growing, with the health services coming “under pressure”.
“To keep Wales safe, the Welsh Government is therefore amending the regulations to make it clear that people living in areas with a high prevalence of coronavirus in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland would not be able to travel to parts of Wales where there is a low prevalence,” Mr Drakeford said.
“It is vital that we keep communities which have low levels of infection as safe as possible and this sensible and necessary restriction will help prevent the virus moving from more urban, highly populated areas to more sparsely populated areas.”
People are already unable to enter or leave areas of Wales subjected to local lockdown restrictions without a reasonable excuse such as work or education.
England’s homes saw 336,500 infections in one week
An estimated 336,500 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between October 2 and 8, the ONS said.
This is the equivalent of around 0.62 per cent of the population.
The figures represent a jump from 224,400 people, or 0.41 per cent of the population, who were estimated to have Covid-19 in the previous week of September 25 to October 1.
Northeast England spared Tier 3 restrictions by at least a week
The seven local authorities in the North East of England have been given a week’s reprieve from going into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions, a source told the PA news agency.
It was believed council leaders in Northumberland, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham had successfully argued to ministers that the rise in infection rate was slowing in the region, but avoiding the increased restrictions next week depended on that continuing.
Government accused of Tier 3 ‘shambles’
Wirral Council leader Jan Williamson said on Twitter: “As Liverpool City Region leaders we demanding the evidence from Government immediately as to why our gyms have had to shut and Lancashire can keep theirs open.
“We need fairness and consistency, what we have is a shambles.”
Liverpool mayor demands answers on lack of Tier 3 consistency
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said on Twitter: “Liverpool City Region has demanded immediate clarification on why Lancashire gyms are allowed to stay open and Liverpool’s close.
“Inconsistent mess, we now have Tier 3 A and Tier 3 B.
“Are gym users in Lancashire more safer than those in Liverpool region?”
City update: Pret to shut six more shops and cut another 400 jobs
Pret A Manger has said it plans to shut six more shops and cut around another 400 jobs after its recovery slowed in the face of recently tightened restrictions and rising case numbers.
In August, the coffee and sandwich chain axed 2,800 roles as part of a restructuring which saw it close 30 sites.
It said it has seen “consistent sales growth” in the four months since reopening sites but this has “slowed since the end of September”.