UK coronavirus LIVE: Boris Johnson comes under fire at PMQs over series of U-turns as death toll hits 57,300

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  • September 2, 2020
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Boris Johnson came under fire as he returned to the Commons over a series of U-turns which have soured Conservative backbench opinion towards the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

He faced critics during his first Prime Minister’s Questions since Parliament’s summer recess began on July 22. Mr Johnson insisted his Government has not been blown off course by Covid-19, but acknowledged that “sometimes it is necessary” to change direction in “response to the facts as they change”.

It comes as new figures show just over 57,300 deaths involving Covid-19 have now been registered in the UK. The ONS data shows that 52,217 deaths involving Covid-19 had occurred in England and Wales up to August 21, and had been registered by August 29.

Figures published last week showed that 4,222 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Scotland up to August 23, while 871 deaths had occurred in Northern Ireland up to August 21, and had been registered up to August 26. Together, these figures mean that so far 57,310 deaths have been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.

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Labour has demanded ministers give a “cast-iron guarantee” that no child will be allowed to fall behind with their learning as a result of the pandemic school closures.

Some pupils were out of a classroom setting for almost six months after schools were shut in March as part of the UK coronavirus lockdown.

Labour has called for ministers to produce what it labelled a “close the gap” strategy after newly-published studies suggested the Covid-related closures significantly widened the attainment gap between pupils, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds left worst off as a result of the time spent away from school.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green, who will visit a primary school in Hertfordshire with party leader Sir Keir Starmer on Thursday, said the catch-up strategy should be monitored by an independent body, such as the Children’s Commissioner.

She also said there should be a new legal requirement introduced ensuring data on the attainment gap was regularly published.

Ms Green said: “The Government’s incompetence this summer (with A-level results) put a generation’s future at risk.

“Unless ministers finally get a grip, with a national strategy for catch-up, many more children risk being robbed of their future.

“Parents need a cast-iron guarantee that any child who has fallen behind will get the support they need to catch up.

“We need independent oversight and transparency, to compare the gap between pupils in different parts of the country and against the pre-Covid generation.

“The last six months have been incredibly difficult for children and families across the country.

“No child should be left behind because of this crisis or Government incompetence.”


Joe Biden says reopening schools is a “national emergency”

Joe Biden has called the struggle to reopen US schools amid the coronavirus pandemic a “national emergency” and accused President Donald Trump of turning his back on the issue.

The Democratic presidential nominee’s broadsides came a day ahead of his own trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Mr Biden said he wants to help “heal” a city reeling from another police shooting of a black man.

The wounding of Jacob Blake and subsequent demonstrations have made the political battleground state a focal point for debate over police and protest violence, as well as the actions of vigilante militias.

Mr Biden attacked President Trump for his vilifying of protesters as well as his handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 190,000 Americans and crippled the national economy, leaving millions out of work, schools straining to deal with students in classrooms or at home and parents struggling to keep up.

An American president, the challenger declared, should be able to lead through multiple crises at the same time.

“Where is the president? Why isn’t he working on this?,” Mr Biden asked.

“We need emergency support funding for our schools — and we need it now. Mr President, that is your job. That’s what you should be focused on — getting our kids back to school. Not whipping up fear and division — not inciting violence in our streets.”

Mr Biden said that he would use existing federal disaster law to direct funding to schools to help them reopen safely, and he urged President Trump to “get off Twitter” and “negotiate a deal” with Congress on more pandemic aid.


Covid-19 restrictions are allowing ministers to have a “pathetically easy time” in the Commons, Conservative MP David Davis has warned.


He took a test after his holiday in Sardinia: 

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi test positive for Covid-19

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has tested positive for coronavirus. The 83-year-old media tycoon is currently in isolation at home near Milan, his staff said on Wednesday.

Alberto Zangrillo, Berlusconi’s personal physician at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital, told AdnKronos news agency he had no symptoms but decided to take a test after his recent trip abroad.


There has been one further death with Covid-19 in Ireland, bringing the total to 1,777.

The Department of Health also said on Wednesday it has been notified of 89 additional cases of the virus. The total number of cases is now 29,114.

Of the latest cases notified, 63% are aged under 45, 56% are confirmed to be associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of a confirmed case, and eight cases have been identified as community transmission.

Most were in Dublin (53), with 15 in Limerick while the remaining 21 cases were across Clare, Cork, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Meath, Offaly, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow.


Calls for councils to be given more control over Test and Trace:

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has called for councils to be given more control over Test and Trace in order to reduce the number of Covid-19 infections in the region.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, he said: “We don’t want these regulations in place for the long-term.

“We’ve got to plan an exit strategy and we’ve got to move from blanket regulations, which are a blunt instrument that affect everybody, to a much more sophisticated, targeted approach – door-to-door teams doing the testing and the tracing.”

The Labour leader added: “Throughout this crisis, we’ve had a ‘Whitehall knows best’ mentality at play and it continues.

“It really isn’t good enough when the front line is very much with us now – we need to be empowered to take the decisions to protect our communities rather than constantly waiting for Government to get its act together.

“I’m very clear about what we need: local control of Test and Trace with door-to-door teams – in Oldham, that is what got their numbers down and that is what we need across all of Greater Manchester.

“We need financial support for people to self-isolate, particularly people on low wages or who are self-employed – that is critical because we are just not seeing people comply with the national Test and Trace system.”


Matt Hancock said a ‘sharp increase’ in Covid-19 cases has led to U-turn on lifting in Trafford and Bolton:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a “sharp increase” in Covid-19 cases in Bolton and Trafford over the past few days led to the sudden decision not to lift the local restrictions in those areas.

Speaking to BBC News, he said: “We took the swift and decisive action that was necessary because over the last few days we have seen a doubling of the number of cases in Bolton, in Trafford.

“We took the action to ensure those areas haven’t been able to come out of lockdown, that was due to come into force today, and instead we took the decision it wasn’t coming into force.”

Mr Hancock said that “overall” the number of transmissions was coming down in the areas under local measures but “not in Bolton and Trafford, so we had to make the changes we did”.

Asked about why some people – including Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham – thought the restrictions had been lifted overnight, Mr Hancock added: “The measures were due to be lifted today and we took the decision that they aren’t going to be lifted in Trafford and Bolton because the number of cases have gone right up.

“In both Bolton and Trafford over the past few days we’ve seen quite a sharp increase in cases and the numbers have doubled, so that’s why we had to take this swift and decisive action today.”


Plan announced for second Nightingale facility in Northern Ireland

Stormont health minister Robin Swann has announced a plan for a second Nightingale facility in Northern Ireland as part of a surge plan ahead what he warned could be a “tough winter”.

It will be a step down facility, located in Whiteabbey Hospital, Co Antrim, and will include 100 intermediate care beds.

The region previously saw a Nightingale facility opened at Belfast City Hospital to provide more intensive care beds. It was wound down in May.

Mr Swann told a Stormont media briefing on Wednesday that he is “increasingly of the view that Covid-19 has the potential for another full scale assault”.

He said:

More people will sadly lose their lives and others will suffer long term damage to their health.

This is going to be a tough winter, the toughest winter the health service has faced in its history.

My department is finalising a new Covid-19 surge planning strategic framework setting out our preparations for the next peak of infections and winter pressures.

As part of this surge plan, I have approved plans for a second Nightingale facility for Northern Ireland. This will be a step down facility at Whiteabbey Hospital which will be operational by this winter in order to increase our bed capacity and relieve wider pressures.

This Nightingale facility will provide an additional 100 regional intermediate care beds to help aid the flow of patients from ICU and acute care.


 £5 steroids have been found to reduce the risk of death…

Steroids ‘reduce risk of death in critical Covid patients by 20%’

Readily available steroids costing around £5 a dose have been found to reduce the risk of death in critically ill coronavirus patients, according to a new study.

An international team of researchers analysed seven Covid-19 trials involving three different types of anti-inflammatory corticosteroids.


Just in…

Heathrow ‘could axe up to 1,200 jobs’ as pandemic hits profits

Heathrow Airport could reportedly axe around 1,200 jobs as the coronavirus pandemic hits aviation profits. 

The west London hub informed union officials on Wednesday that it was triggering a 45-day consultation period that could lead to redundancies, according to Sky News. 


Here’s the latest death toll figures:

UK coronavirus hospital death toll rises by 10

The number of people who have died in the UK after contracting coronavirus has risen by 10, the Department of Health and Social Care said. 

It means Britain’s total death toll, within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, now stands at 41,514. This covers fatalities in all settings, including care homes.  A further seven people have died in hospitals in England, NHS England said. 


Just in…

The Government said 41,514 people had died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, an increase of 10 on the day before.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 57,300 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The Government also said that as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 1,508 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus. Overall, 338,676 cases have been confirmed.


Listen to the latest episode of The Leader podcast here:

Podcast: why Boris should back the tube

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. 


The Prime Minister’s holiday was cut short after pictures of the Scottish Highlands cottage he was staying in were published: 


Manchester mayor says local lockdown announcements is like ‘waiting for the white smoke out of the Vatican’

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham compared the Government’s weekly announcements on local coronavirus restrictions as “like waiting for the white smoke out of the Vatican”.

He said: “National government sitting in Whitehall imposing decisions on local communities has got to stop, we can’t have that anymore. It’s not working, it’s confusing people, it’s causing anger and resentment.

“In my view, it’s local councils that need to be in the driving seat here, working then in consultation with the Government.”

Mr Burnham added he thought the latest lifting of restrictions in the north of England came into effect from midnight on Tuesday rather than midday on Wednesday.

Mr Burnham said: “It was my understanding that they were lifted at midnight because that is what happened with Wigan, so there was a clear precedent last week. I don’t recall any reference to noon.”


Refusing to wear face mask ‘could be sign of sociopath’ – study 


There will not be ‘a horror show of tax rises with no end in sight’, Rishi Sunak insists

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has sought to reassure Conservative MPs there will not be “a horror show of tax rises with no end in sight” amid disquiet at the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.


In a speech to the new intake in Parliament, Mr Sunak said: “We will need to do some difficult things, but I promise you, if we trust one another we will be able to overcome the short term challenges.


“Now this doesn’t mean a horror show of tax rises with no end in sight.


“But it does mean treating the British people with respect, being honest with them about the challenges we face and showing them how we plan to correct our public finances and give our country the dynamic, low tax economy we all want to see.


“We cannot, will not and must not surrender our position as the party of economic competence and sound finance. If we argue instead that there is no limit to what we can spend, that we can simply borrow our way out of any hole then what is the difference between us and the Labour Party.”


The death toll in the UK has risen by 10 


No new deaths reported in Wales

There have been no further reported deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, health officials have said.


The total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remains at 1,596.


Public Health Wales said the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country had increased by 42, bringing the revised confirmed cases to 18,105.


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