The Government revealed earlier this week it has signed deals for 90 million doses of promising Covid-19 vaccines and Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said she is hopeful of a vaccine by the end of the year. Normally, it takes between 18 and 24 months for regulators to give a new medicine the green light.
But regulators are already reviewing ways for trials to be sped up with Mrs Bingham telling The Daily Telegraph a coronavirus jab could be put in the “emergency use” category and become available early. She said by engaging regulators at an early stage: “everything can be done much more quickly”.
It comes as Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she hopes shoppers who refuse to wear masks will be “shamed” into wearing face coverings. She told LBC that calling the police over someone failing to wear a face covering should only be “a last resort”.
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Plaid Cymru’s Ben Lake (Ceredigion) called for zero-VAT on non-medical face coverings.
He said during PMQs: “Facings coverings will become mandatory on public transport in Wales next Monday. Now a zero-VAT rating has been applied to most PPE since May 1, but at present it does not apply to non-medical face coverings.
“Will the PM therefore extend the zero=rating to these items so that members of the public, especially those on low incomes, are not financially penalised for following the rules?”
Mr Johnson replied: “We have removed VAT from all PPE including VAT on face masks that, as everybody knows, can protect from infection, that removed the burden of VAT in care homes, NHS trusts and for key workers.
“For home-made face masks, those which meet the PHE guidance will be covered and will continue to be covered by the zero rate, but I’m happy to ask the relevant minister to write to him to clarify the entire position.”
Nicola Sturgeon went on to say a “number of Sitel staff” who were found to have Covid-19 had “links to other locations”.
Environmental health officers have visitied these, and are satisifed that the risk of transmission is low, the First Minister said, although people they have been in contact with at these places have also been advised to isolate.
The five locations were named as: Owen’s Bar in Coatbridge, the Railway Tavern and Merlin’s Bar in Motherwell, Costa Coffee in Carfin and End Clothing in Glasgow – with Ms Sturgeon urging people who have been to these places in the last week or so to be “extra vigilant” and isolate and book a test if they have any coronavirus symptoms.
But she stressed this was simply an “added precaution”.
Victoria’s state premier has berated people sick with Covid-19 for “still shopping and going to work” as Australia suffered its worst day for new infections:
Only 0.3% of Scots tested on Tuesday were positive for Covid-19
Nicola Sturgeon said of all those tested on Tuesday, just 0.3% were confirmed as having Covid-19 – well below the 5% of tests returning as positive that the World Health Organisation deems to be sign that an epidemic under control.
Speaking at her coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, she revealed there are now 20 cases of the disease linked to the Sitel call centre in Lanarkshire.
“Since Sunday an intensive contact tracing operation has been under way,” she said.
All Sitel workers have been told to isolate at home for 14 days as well as being tested for the virus.
Ms Sturgeon said: “As of this morning around 390 test results out of around 400 tested overall have been returned.
“And I can confirm that as of now 15 positive cases have been identified of people who work at the site and a further five additional positive cases have been identified through the tracing of family members and close contacts.”
Women have shouldered the bulk of extra childcare duties imposed on parents during the lockdown, an official report revealed today.
A study by the Office for National Statistics showed women carried out an average of three hours and 18 minutes of childcare but men just two hours.
Women in households with children under 18 did on average two thirds more of childcare duties per day than men in the first weeks of lockdown.
Grant Shapps made the last-minute bid to end confusion as law comes into force for shoppers on Friday
Millions of people were today urged by a Cabinet minister to carry a face covering when leaving home so they can slip one on when they go into a shop or on public transport.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps issued the appeal ahead of new regulations coming into force making it compulsory to wear a face covering in shops.
The fitness guru has been helping kids stay healthy during lockdown
After hosting 70 workout videos, fitness guru Joe Wicks’ virtual PE lessons have come to an end.
The Body Coach not only inspired reams of school kids and their parents to stay active and healthy while schools across the UK were shut, he also raised an impressive £580,000 for the NHS.
In his last ever session, Wicks admitted “I’m really emotional”, and told fans wife Rosie was also tearing up.
Rapid Covid-19 test trialled in care homes
A rapid Covid-19 test that promises results in under an hour is being trialled in care homes.
The clinical trial, led by Queen Mary University of London, will be carried out in 50 care homes in London with up to 2,000 staff, visitors and residents.
The trial aims to find out how effective rapid testing is at reducing rates of infection, hospitalisation and deaths from coronavirus.
Other trials of rapid tests have been ongoing, including one on up to 4,000 people led by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
For the London trial, residents, staff and visitors in 25 care homes will be tested daily on rapid testing machines, which each have the capacity to process up to 100 samples a day.
Meanwhile, as a comparison, the other 25 care homes will receive the standard central laboratory testing once a week.
Professor Jo Martin, from Queen Mary University of London, who is leading the study, said: “This work has the potential to bring a new rapid Covid-19 testing system to those at highest risk, and help interrupt community transmission.
“If found to be successful in care homes, it could be very useful in a wide range of settings, helping to make a quick diagnosis and keep an environment free of Covid-19.
Lockdown home improvements boost Kingfisher sales and profits
Surging demand for DIY products amid the coronavirus lockdown is set to see B&Q owner Kingfisher deliver rising half-year profits as it revealed that online sales have more than tripled.
Shares in the retailer jumped as much as 12% as it said group like-for-like sales have risen 21.6% in its second quarter so far to July 18.
Group online sales rocketed more than 200% in May and June amid the trend for home improvements as lockdowns across Europe forced households to stay at home.
Trading was also boosted by cost-cutting and the phased reopening of stores in the UK and France since mid-April.
Kingfisher said like-for-like sales across the UK and Ireland – where it also owns Screwfix – jumped 25.9% last month, while sales leapt 33% in France, where it trades as Castorama and Brico Depot.
Sales have continued to remain strong in July, with UK and Ireland like-for-like growth of 19.6% in the week to July 18 and group online growth of 183.3%.
Kingfisher said: “Based on the strong sales seen to date in the second quarter, combined with cost reductions benefiting the first half, the company anticipates its half-year adjusted pre-tax profit to be ahead of prior year.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps issued the appeal ahead of new regulations coming into force making it compulsory to wear a face covering in shops.
Scotland has recorded 10 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in a day, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, she said 18,484 people have tested positive for Covid-19 north of the border.
She added provisional figures indicate three of the 10 new cases are in Lanarkshire and one of these is linked to the outbreak at the Sitel call centre in the region.
No deaths of people who tested positive for the virus were recorded for the sixth consecutive day, meaning the toll remains at 2,941.
There were 295 people in hospital with confirmed Covid-19 in hospital, down eight in 24 hours.
Of these, three were in intensive care, down one from the previous day.
GPs have been warned that flu vaccinations could take up to twice as long to deliver during the coronavirus pandemic due to social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.
Guidance issued by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) this week highlighted that primary care providers are likely to be called upon to deliver “emergency vaccination” as a result of the pandemic.
This may include “significantly expanding the seasonal flu vaccination programme” as well as “delivering mass vaccination against Covid-19”, if a vaccine became available.
But the challenges posed by the need for safe social distancing and protective equipment could extend a GP’s seasonal flu vaccination time to up to six minutes, instead of the normal one to three minutes, the RCGP warned.
Its guidance said the coronavirus pandemic would pose a “specific set of challenges to achieving high volume throughput” on vaccinations.
It stated: “For example, it is likely that enhanced standards of infection prevention and control will be needed, and larger spaces may be necessary to maintain safe social distancing.
“Premises normally used to undertake vaccination (GP surgeries, pharmacies, schools) are likely to be impacted by any restrictions of social distancing, if in place.
“Creating a safe flow of patients to achieve the high throughput to vaccinate large numbers may be difficult, and impossible in some.”
A total of 4,193 people have died in Scotland with confirmed or suspected coronavirus, according to the National Records of Scotland (NRS).
A total of six deaths relating to Covid-19 were registered between July 13 and July 19, down seven from 13 the previous week.
This marks the lowest weekly total since deaths linked to the virus were first recorded in Scotland in the week beginning March 16, when 11 such deaths were registered.
It is the 12th weekly reduction in a row.
The statistics are published weekly and account for all deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
They differ from the lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths announced daily by the Scottish Government because they include suspected or probable cases of Covid-19.
Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street for PMQs:
Future way of working will be split between office and home – report
Splitting between the office and home is set to be the future way of working as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, a new report suggests.
Recruiter Hays said its research indicated a new era of part-remote and part-office working by the start of next year.
Its survey of 13,500 workers and employers revealed that staff are returning to offices in more than half of organisations.
Many employers said they had introduced split shifts, with staff alternating the days and weeks they work in the office and at home.
Firms are also offering staggered start and finish times to avoid travelling in the morning or evening peaks.
Simon Winfield, managing director of Hays UK & Ireland, said: “The health and safety of staff needs to remain the top priority when reopening offices, and initially this ought to happen on a voluntary basis to take into account those who are unable to return for their own personal reasons.
“However, companies need to look to the future now too. There’s been a seismic shift with demands for sustained flexible working and this looks set to continue on a scale never seen before.
“Yet the responses indicate that people might have had enough of working solely at home. The greatest demand is for a new hybrid way of working – staff want a balance between office life and working remotely, which is now far closer in their sights than ever before.”
London mayor pushes plans to build route to recovery with housing and jobs boost
The construction skills crisis has worsened as a result of the coronavirus crisis, sparking calls for a multibillion-pound recovery package to boost housing and jobs, according to a report.
London mayor Sadiq Khan set out a plan to “reboot” the capital’s housing sector, with fresh investment and a focus on technology, skills and career opportunities.
He called for significant Government funding to support affordable homes and increased investment in precision manufactured and modular housing.
His comments followed a report by a Housing Delivery Taskforce, bringing together London builders, councils, housing associations and unions to consider the challenges posed by the pandemic and plan a route to recovery.
The mayor said: “Building the social and other genuinely affordable homes Londoners need has always been my top priority, but the pandemic has challenged that ambition like nothing before.
“Now we have a unique opportunity to reboot the London housing sector. This road map to recovery builds on the skills, expertise and experience we have whilst investing in the latest technology and training to maintain our world-leading workforce.
“Ministers must listen and support our recommendations so we can emerge from this crisis with improved resilience, a greater sense of co-operation and a new-found resolve to deliver the genuinely affordable homes that London so desperately needs.”
Driving tests start up again:
Kyle Duddridge after successfully completing his driving test in Liverpool. Driving tests, which were suspended across the UK in March, have restarted in England with a huge backlog after hundreds of thousands of tests were delayed or cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defends the World Health Organisation:
A cabinet minister today praised the World Health Organisation as a “force for good” in a glaring split with America over fighting coronavirus.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the best way to combat the virus is for an international response.
Kidney transplant operations from living donors have resumed in London after operations were halted in the pandemic.
During the peak of the virus, transplants were considered too dangerous because the medication necessary to help the body accept a new organ can suppress the immune system, leaving it vulnerable to the virus.
But transplant centres have now reopened with new measures to protect patients.
The Pitch Perfect star urges her Instagram followers to wear a mask:
Pitch Perfect star Anna Camp has urged her Instagram followers to wear face masks, claiming she caught coronavirus after forgetting to wear hers “one time.”
The actress, 37, said that she was “extremely sick for over three weeks” after contracting the virus and still has “lingering symptoms.”