UK coronavirus LIVE: 'Rule of six' makes mingling illegal as Keir Starmer self-isolates after family member shows Covid symptoms

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  • September 14, 2020
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Tough new limits on social gatherings have come into force in the UK, meaning it is now illegal for groups of more than six to meet up.

The “rule of six” kicked in at midnight across England, Wales and Scotland in a divisive push to curb the recent surge in coronavirus infections.

Yesterday, more than 3,000 Covid-19 cases were reported for the third day in a row – the first time since May that the grim threshold was hit on three consecutive days.

It comes as London recorded a rise in cases in all but 10 of its boroughs – with Enfield reporting a 145 per cent surge. And Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has gone into self-isolation after one of his family members developed symptoms of the disease.

Follow our live updates below…

Live Updates


Yorkshire university says it will be taking a “softly, softly” approach to enforcing the so-called rule of six

Students at the University of Hull have been moving on to the Cottingham Road campus over a four-day period and attending events – virtually and in person – as part of “WelcomeFest”.

Academics assured the new intake this will be “a year we will never forget for all the right reasons”, despite coronavirus restrictions.

The university said it will take a “blended” approach to teaching, with many lectures online, and students are being asked to attend some events on campus within their household bubbles. But it said it would not take a hard-line approach to anyone breaching the rule of six.

A spokeswoman said: “I think we would take a softly, softly approach, we would deal with noise from parties on campus, we would take each situation as it comes and then think about what the measure would be, what measures would be appropriate in each.

“We’re not taking a hard-line approach of fining students. We feel that the students we’ve talked to already are quite cautious themselves.”


The number of pupils who have to self-isolate could increase and more schools may have to close as winter approaches, says a head teachers’ union

Downing Street says 99 per cent of schools in England have reopened this month, with only a “very small” number remaining closed due to coronavirus outbreaks.

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said disruption to pupils’ education could worsen in the months to come.

Schools have been hit with Covid-19 cases since pupils returned to class over the past fortnight. Some have closed their doors days after reopening, while others have told whole classes and year groups to self-isolate for two weeks following confirmed cases.

Heads are facing a “very difficult situation” because of Covid-19 transmission in the community, a “lack of sufficient capacity” in the testing system, and difficulties in getting timely advice from health teams, Mr Barton said.

He added: “While only a small number of schools have had to close because of outbreaks, we are regularly hearing reports of groups of pupils and staff having to self-isolate in response to positive cases.

“The concern is that this disruption will worsen as winter approaches. It is essential that the Government improves the capacity of the testing system, and ensures that local health protection teams have the resources they need to provide prompt advice to schools.”


UK coronavirus death toll rises by nine

Public Health England said that as of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 2,621 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. Overall, 371,125 cases have been confirmed.

PHE also said a further nine people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday. This brings the UK total to 41,637.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 57,400 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

An issue with Microsoft’s Azure cloud service meant the dashboard could not be updated, PHE added.


More than half of coronavirus breach fines are unpaid

More than half of the 19,171 fines issued for alleged breaches of Covid-19 laws in England and Wales have not been paid, according to the Attorney General.

In a letter to the Justice Committee, Suella Braverman revealed just 8,930 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) – 7,375 in England and 1,555 in Wales – have been paid.

Figures published in the letter, dated August 25, show 8,954 FPNs – 8,325 in England and 629 in Wales – have not been paid in time and can be considered for prosecution.

Another 1,287 unpaid FPNs are still within the 28-day payment period.

Police were given powers to fine people for breaching coronavirus restrictions from March 27. Criminal proceedings can be initiated against people who fail to pay tickets they have accepted within 28 days, or immediately where the FPN is not accepted.


Bolton firm of solicitors closes after it was linked to 18 cases of coronavirus

Accident Injury Solicitors, on Blackburn Road, was ordered to close immediately on Friday by environmental health officers and will remain shut until improvements have been made, a spokesman for Bolton Council said.

Family members of employees at the business had contacted the authority to report that staff were not being informed of Covid-19 cases in the workplace and were being forced to work alongside others who had tested positive, the spokesman said.

An investigation by the council and Public Health England (PHE) revealed 18 cases linked to the firm and when officers visited they found seating arrangements were not far enough apart and cleaning arrangements were unsatisfactory.

Bolton was made subject to tighter restrictions last week as it recorded the highest number of cases in the country.

The council’s cabinet member for environment regulatory services Councillor Hilary Fairclough, said: “The restrictions are clear – and in the case of this firm we had no choice but to take action.

“The firm clearly showed a disregard for the health of their staff and the wider community. We are indebted to members of the public for letting us know about these unsafe practices. I urge anyone who has concerns about their place of work, or any business, to let us know so we can investigate.

“This council takes a zero-tolerance approach to those flouting the Covid-19 rules.


Further support for mortgage borrowers struggling financially due to coronavirus

Mortgage borrowers who continue to face payment difficulties due to the impact of coronavirus will be able to get further support tailored to their needs in the coming months, the City regulator has confirmed.

Current guidance, which will expire after October 31, allows mortgage holders to ask lenders for payment holidays if they are struggling to meet their regular payments due to their finances being temporarily affected by Covid-19.

On Monday, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published additional guidance for firms so they can target those most in need with help which will be based on individual circumstances.

Some customers may still be facing payment problems, while others may be struggling for the first time.

Depending on a customer’s circumstances, this could mean short or longer-term support.


There were two further deaths from Covid-19 reported over the weekend in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has said.

The death toll recorded by the department now stands at 570.

There have also been a further 109 new confirmed cases of the virus in the last 24-hour reporting period.


Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster has said Northern Ireland is at a “tipping point” when it comes to the increased spread of Covid-19.

Mrs Foster insisted the executive was not “scaremongering” on the threat posed by a fresh wave of infections.

The DUP leader was responding to Assembly questions on the new localised restrictions imposed on Belfast and Ballymena and nearby postcodes.

“Let me say this to the Assembly and indeed anyone else listening – we are at a tipping point in relation to Covid-19,” she said.

“There are those who think that we are scaremongering about this issue and I just want to address that – we are not, we are not.

“We are in constant contact with our chief medical officer (Dr Michael McBride) and again today I am advised that the postcodes which we have particular concern about that concern is very much still there.

“And I do not want to see that spreading across Northern Ireland – we have to act to stop that spreading across Northern Ireland and actually stop people in those postcode areas from spreading Covid-19.”


Work and pensions minister Guy Opperman called on his Labour opposite number Jack Dromey to “talk to his good lady wife” about pension underpayments.

Mr Dromey is married to former Labour deputy leader and Mother of the House of Commons Harriet Harman, who was previously a social security secretary in the last Labour government.

During work and pensions questions, Mr Dromey said: “Up to 130,000 women denied their pension entitlements – pension underpayments – are awaiting justice. There is an investigation under way, when will that investigation finally conclude, so that those women, many of whom are in the twilight of their years, get the justice that they deserve?”

Responding, Mr Opperman said: “I really think the honourable gentleman needs to talk to his good lady wife, the honourable member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), because she was the former secretary of state for the Labour government who so grievously underpaid state pension.

“Such that the coalition and this Government has now transformed basic state pension such that it is over £1,900-a-year higher than it was a decade ago.”


Work and pensions minister Mims Davies said the Government is “absolutely determined” to see off suggestions of a “tsunami” of unemployment at the end of the furlough scheme.

Shadow workforce minister Justin Madders said: “There’s no doubt the unemployment situation, as bad as it is, would have been so much worse had it not been for the various schemes that the minister has talked about, which is why it’s such a catastrophic error for the Government to end the furlough scheme in October.

“So with that in mind, can the minister tell us what estimate the department has made of the level of unemployment this coming Christmas?”

Ms Davies responded: “Well that’s exactly why we’ve got our Plan for Jobs, a £30 billion scheme including £2 billion for the Kickstart scheme and I’m going to be boring about this, there is so much good work going on in our DWP and JCPs (Jobcentre Plus) locally to absolutely tackle what (Mr Madders) has spoken about.”

She added: “We’re absolutely determined, with our Plan for Jobs, to see off that tsunami to give people the right skills and the right opportunities for the future.”


Northern Ireland update:

(Getty Images)

An under-18s version of Northern Ireland’s Covid tracing app should be launched before the end of the month, the health minister has said.

It will include age-appropriate information and encouragement throughout all stages to speak to a parent or guardian.

Children will be able to use the app in a way that ensures anonymity.

Department of Health chief digital information officer Dan West said: “We are working alongside colleagues in the education sector to get ready for the launch of this new version.

“We know that this is a big step forward for government digital tools for this age group, but we also know that we have to be careful in how we collaborate with schools and other organisations to get this right for our young people, and make the biggest impact we can on the increasing prevalence of the virus.”


Personal data of thousands of Welsh residents ‘made public by mistake’

Public Health Wales has said the personal data of 18,105 Welsh residents who had tested positive for Covid-19 was “uploaded by mistake to a public server where it was searchable by anyone using the site”.

The data was for every Welsh resident who tested positive for coronavirus between February 27 and August 30.

After being alerted to the breach, which Public Health Wales said was the result of “individual human error”, the data was removed on the morning of August 31.

In the 20 hours it was online, it was viewed 56 times.

In 16,179 of the cases, the information published included people’s initials, date of birth, geographical area and sex, PHW admitted.

However, for 1,926 people living in nursing homes or other enclosed settings such as supported housing, or residents who shared the same postcodes as those settings, the information also included the name of the setting.

A spokesman for Public Health Wales said: “There is no evidence at this stage that the data has been misused.

“However, we recognise the concern and anxiety this will cause and deeply regret that on this occasion we have failed to protect Welsh residents’ confidential information.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office and the Welsh Government have been informed and an external investigation into the breach has been commissioned.


Another 183 cases confirmed in Wales overnight

There have been a further 183 cases of Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 19,573.

Public Health Wales said no further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,597.


UK testing system suffering a number of issues – Welsh minister

Vaughan Gething said the reduced capacity at mobile testing sites was “not the only issues we’re experiencing with the UK-wide system”.

“I know there are a number of cases where people are trying to book a test at drive-in centres and finding them either fully booked or being told to go to a centre many hundreds of miles away,” he said.

“I’ve spoken with the UK Secretary of State about this, including on Saturday, when we agreed to immediate action to protect capacity in areas experiencing higher incidence and spikes and to make sure that unilateral restrictions are not placed on Wales again.

“But we have to see an urgent and sustainable solution to these ongoing issues affecting the Lighthouse Lab system.”

Mr Gething said the Welsh Government had invested to boost its testing capacity and was taking “urgent action” to switch over testing facilities to Welsh laboratories.


Almost all schools in England have now reopened – No10

Downing Street said 99 per cent of England’s schools had reopened following the coronavirus lockdown with only a “very small” number remaining closed due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said data on school attendance would be published on Tuesday.

“The indications are that around 99 per cent of schools expected to open have done so,” the spokesman said.

“There is a very small number of schools which have asked some or all of their pupils to remain at home.

“Those schools are following the published guidance and ensuring that where there is a positive case swift action is taken.

“Children who are self-isolating continue to receive remote education from home.”


Police to be trained on how to break up ‘illegal mingling’

Police will be expected to exercise their discretion in enforcing the “rule of six” coronavirus regulations, Downing Street said.

The Government has made it illegal to “mingle” under the new law enabling the enforcement of rules in England.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) will set out further guidance for officers on how to respond to unlawful mingling, Number 10 indicated.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The NPCC will set out guidance for police forces, but police are used to using their discretion in upholding the law and I’m sure that’s what they will do in this case.”


Britons must help stop virus spread – No10

Asked whether people should report neighbours who breach coronavirus rules, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “What we want people to be focused on is following the new rules and ensuring that they, themselves, help – as they have in the past – to slow the spread of the virus.

“What you have seen in recent weeks is some egregious flouting of the rules, such as the holding of large illegal parties, and members of the public have been contacting the police about those because they have been concerned about the risk to public health.”


‘Rule of six’ flouters may not face fines… yet

Downing Street suggested police would not immediately start imposing fines today on people who break the “rule of six” restrictions.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “What you would expect to happen is for the police to be out today encouraging people to follow the new rules but in the coming days, if we see people continuing to flout the new rules, it is right that people could face a fine.

“The regulations are in place to help to stop the spread of the virus, to protect the NHS and to ultimately save lives.”