UK coronavirus LIVE: Local lockdowns 'could hit other cities in days' as Britons named most reluctant to return to office

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  • August 6, 2020
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A city in northern England could be the latest to see lockdown restrictions imposed after the town’s coronavirus cases doubled in a week.

Preston could join Greater Manchester and other nearby regions in having tough new rules introduced, with Lancashire’s director of public health telling the BBC he expected new measures expected to be enforced “in the next few days”.

It comes as the latest data on the country’s test-and-trace system is due to be published this morning amid concerns about its effectiveness ahead of a potential Covid-19 second wave in winter.

In other developments, new figures reveal that infection rates in the UK continued to decline even as restrictions were lifted between June and July.

Britons have been named as much more reluctant to return to the office than their European counterparts, with new research suggesting around 34 per cent of British workers are back at their desks compared to 83 per cent of French.

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Live Updates


A warning against complacency here: 

More than eight in 10 people who tested positive for coronavirus in England had no symptoms of the illness at the time, the latest monthly study for the Government revealed today.

The research, by Imperial College London, its sister NHS trust and Ipsos MORI, found that infection rates fell between June 19 and July 8 but there was an “increased infection intensity in and near London”.

The REACT-1 study is the largest in the country, with almost 160,000 people agreeing to undertake a random nasal and throat test sent to them at home, to check for antigens showing the presence of Covid-19.

Read more…


Health update:


Rsearchers behind a global study into whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent Covid-19 have warned the drug is being discarded prematurely and could still save lives.

The University of Oxford-led study, known as Copcov, is a randomised, placebo-controlled global study aiming to enrol 40,000 healthcare workers to determine if hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can prevent Covid-19.

Hydroxychloroquine has been routinely dismissed as an acceptable coronavirus treatment, with multiple scientific studies suggesting the anti-malaria drug can do more harm than good.

However, the researchers behind Copcov have stressed that, while the drug has been ruled out as a method to treat infections, it may still be able to prevent them.

The trial’s co-principal investigator Dr Will Schilling said: “We really don’t know if hydroxychloroquine works or not in prevention or very early treatment. That question remains unanswered.

“The benefits found in small post-exposure treatment trials, although modest, could be very valuable if they were confirmed.”

Professor Nick Day, director of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit which is also guiding the study, said the Copcov trial will be able to find a definitive answer to the drug’s effectiveness.

He said: “By the time patients are admitted to hospital virus multiplication is well past its peak and inflammation in the lungs and other complications may prove lethal.

“At this stage the steroid dexamethasone, which reduces inflammation, saves lives but the antivirals hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine do not.

“However, that does not rule out that they could be effective much earlier in the illness. Prevention is much easier than cure. The Copcov study will find out if these drugs can prevent Covid-19 or not.”


Minister tells Britons to ‘get out’

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick urged people to “get out” and support local businesses in the cities to prevent further job losses.

Asked whether he is concerned that London is being “hollowed out” on LBC, he said: “Well I am very concerned about London and city centres more generally.

“You are seeing people starting to go back into town centres and obviously using local shops in villages and rural areas, but many of our city centres are very quiet and we need to get back into them, using the Chancellor’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, going to visit the shops safely, it can be done.

“Shops and the hospitality industry are going to great lengths to make sure that they’re following social distancing guidelines and those of us that can do so need to get out and support them now or else we will see, I’m afraid, further job losses and a loss of some of those fantastic businesses that we see in our cities.”


What’s the situation in Preston?

Preston is reporting a higher coronavirus infection rate than some of the areas under tighter restrictions – with 35 cases per 100,000 people.

The central Lancashire city recorded 49 new cases in the week to July 31, compared with 22 the previous week.

Lancashire’s director for public health, Sakthi Karunanithi, told BBC Radio Lancashire it was his personal and professional opinion that the Government will impose restrictions on the city in the next few days “given the statistics, the direction of travel and given the size of the issue.”

Updates on possible new measures are expected this morning after a Government review meeting, the Times reports.

“We will get to know after that meeting if there are any restrictions that will be brought in or (if) any support will be given to us as well,” Dr Karunanithi said.

On Friday, guidance was issued by Preston city council urging locals to avoid inviting visitors from another household into their homes and to wear face coverings in all indoor public places.


World update:

Coronavirus patients killed in fire at Indian hospital

A fire has killed eight coronavirus patients at a hospital in western India, officials have reported.

Firefighters and 15 fire engines contained the fire to the intensive care unit at Shrey Hospital and it was extinguished in half an hour, fire officer Yusuf Khan said.

Thirty-five patients were moved to other hospitals, he said.

Rajiv Kumar Gupta, a Gujarat state government official, told reporters that an electrical short-circuit appeared to be the cause of the fire in the city of Ahmedabad.

He also said one paramedic was being treated for burns received while trying to douse the flames.


Slash to planning red tape will mean more money for hospitals, schools and roads – Jenrick

Robert Jenrick added that he believes the reforms will lead to more social housing.

He told Sky News: “We believe this will lead to more social housing because there will be more money being generated from this new infrastructure levy than from its predecessors.

“And there will also be more money for the other things that we all care about like GP surgeries, hospitals, schools, roads, parks and playgrounds.”

He added that “this year and next year will be very challenging for the industry and these reforms, although long term, will give a big confidence booster to everyone who works in the sector knowing that there is going to be a faster, simpler system for them to navigate in the years ahead”.

More on the plans here…


Build, build, build plans won’t lead to ‘slums’ – Jenrick 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said claims that the Government’s planning reforms would lead to slums are “complete nonsense”.

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Jenrick said: “Today it takes seven years to produce a local plan, we want to reduce that to around two and a half years. And it can take five years to get spades in the ground on a housing estate. We believe that can be cut very significantly and everybody will benefit from that – the people who work in the industry and those people who want to get on the housing ladder as well.”

Asked whether the public will have less of a say on planning decisions, he added: “Well we want to have a meaningful local engagement and that is at the planning making stage. So what our proposals will do, it will mean that when the plan is being produced, there will be a really serious debate in a local community about where they want homes to be built.”

Asked about the Royal Institute of British Architect’s comments that the proposals are “shameful”, Mr Jenrick said: “That I’m afraid is complete nonsense. I saw those comments and they were put out before we’d even published the document.”


Financial update:

ITV has suffered ‘one of the most challenging times’ in its history

ITV said it has restarted production on around 70 per cent of its TV shows as lockdown measures ease, and will plough around £960 million into programming this year.

The broadcaster said that profit before tax dropped 93 per cent to £15 million in the first half of the financial year, on revenue of £1.45 billion.

The drop came despite good viewer numbers, as the company smashed its target for the number of BritBox subscribers in the UK.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “This has been one of the most challenging times in the history of ITV.

“While our two main sources of revenue – production and advertising – were down significantly in the first half of the year and the outlook remains uncertain, today we are seeing an upward trajectory with productions restarting and advertisers returning to take advantage of our highly effective mass reach and addressable advertising platform, in a brand safe environment.

“We have made good progress in our digital transformation. The majority of our colleagues are working seamlessly at home thanks to the investment we have made in technology and systems and this has helped us continue to deliver on our strategic objectives.

“BritBox is ahead of target on subscribers in the UK and we have announced plans to roll out BritBox internationally.

“The future is still uncertain due to the pandemic but the action we have taken to manage and mitigate the impact of Covid-19 puts us in a good position to continue to invest in our strategy of transforming ITV into a digitally led media and entertainment company.”


Britons are seeking redundancy advice every two minutes – CAB

A spokesperson for Citizens Advice has said the free information service is helping people with redundancy queries every two minutes.

Katie Martin, director of external affairs, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve been seeing case after case of people coming to Citizens Advice for help around redundancy – in particular, selection for redundancy and potential questions around discrimination.

“So we’re helping somebody about once every two minutes at the moment and visits to our advice pages on selection for redundancy have doubled in the last couple of months.

“We’ve also conducted some polling that suggests that disabled people, parents, carers and those people who have previously been shielding are more than twice as likely to be at risk of redundancy as other workers.

“So it is a really, really concerning trend and something that we feel really needs to be addressed.”


Financial update:

The Bank of England kept interest rates at 0.1 per cent and left unchanged the size of its bond-buying programme at £745 billion.


Pupils face exam results ‘life sentence’ without appeal, teachers warn

Not allowing appeals against unfair or incorrect exam results risks imposing a “life sentence” on some pupils, head teachers have warned. Children in England are due to receive their GCSE and A-level results in the coming weeks following a school year marred by the coronavirus crisis. Concerns have been raised that the “narrow” criteria for challenging awarded grades could “exacerbate existing inequalities” and result in legal action against exam boards.


Parents, carers and former shielders are more than twice as likely to face redundancy than the general population, research by Citizens Advice suggests.

One in six (17 per cent) of adults of working age surveyed by the charity said they have lost their jobs in the last three months during the coronavirus pandemic, or are being made redundant now.

This is compared to almost half (48 per cent) of those who have been shielding because they are clinically extremely vulnerable, and 39 per cent of parents or carers, the poll of 6,015 people found.

Just over a quarter of disabled people said they had or were facing losing their job, rising to 37% of adults whose disabilities affect their daily lives.

Demand for advice from the charity on redundancy has increased almost seven-fold since February, with advisers giving one-on-one sessions to 6,353 people since the lockdown began.


Starmer: UK faces unemployment crisis not seen for generations

The UK is facing an unemployment crisis on a scale not seen for generations, Sir Keir Starmer has warned as he steps up calls for a targeted extension of the Government’s furlough scheme. The Labour leader will visit North Wales – an area hit hard by job losses at Airbus but also a political battleground where his party lost out to the Tories at the general election – as part of his effort to put pressure on Chancellor Rishi Sunak.


Fifteen people poisoned after swallowing hand sanitiser:

Fifteen cases of methanol poisoning caused by swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitisers were reported in Arizona and New Mexico in May and June, leading to four deaths, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

All alcohol-based hand sanitisers approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must contain only ethanol or isopropanol, but some products imported into the country have been found to contain methanol, the CDC said in a report.

It warned that severe methanol poisoning can result in blindness or death, and asked people to check whether their hand sanitisers contained the chemical. Three of the 15 poisoned patients were discharged with visual impairment, the CDC said.


CDC worked with the two states to review poison centre call records and found 15 adult patients had taken an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and been admitted to a hospital. All of them had a history of swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitiser products.

An earlier CDC survey taken shortly after President Donald Trump publicly asked whether injecting disinfectants could treat Covid-19 found more than a third of Americans misused such products to try to prevent infection.

The researchers said their findings point to the possibility of similar cases in other states and localities and recommended that safety messaging to avoid ingestion of any alcohol-based hand sanitiser product should continue.


WHO asks young people to stop partying to prevent second wave:

Young people must curb their party instincts to help prevent new outbreaks of covid-19 , officials at the World Health Organisation (WHO) pleaded on Wednesday.

Tired of lockdowns and eager to enjoy the northern hemisphere summer, young people in some countries have been contributing to resurgences by gathering again for parties, barbecues and holidays.

Even in Geneva, where the global UN health body is based, cabarets and clubs were closed last week after evidence that nearly half of new cases were coming from there.

“Younger people also need to take on board that they have a responsibility,” said WHO emergencies chief and father-of-three Mike Ryan in an online discussion.

“Ask yourself the question: do I really need to go to that party?”


Infectious disease official expects tens of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses at the start of 2021:

Drugmakers will likely have tens of millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine in the early part of next year, with production ramping up so that it hits a billion doses by the end of 2021, Anthony Fauci, the top US government official on infectious diseases, said.

The expert said he has not seen any pressure from the White House to announce a vaccine close to the November 3 election in the hopes of boosting President Donald Trump’s re-election chances.

He added that regulators have promised “they are not going to let political considerations interfere” with the approval of a Covid-19 vaccine and that “safety and efficacy” will be primary considerations.


Babies’ development and behaviour has been affected by lockdown, study suggests:

The impact of coronavirus restrictions on newborns could be “severe” and “long-lasting” and has already affected babies’ behaviour, a new study suggests.


The Babies In Lockdown report, commissioned by three leading children and parent groups, showed that some babies were not interacting as normal, were becoming increasingly clingy and were crying more than usual.

Read the full story here


Bereaved feel ‘swept under carpet’:

Bereaved families who lost loved ones to Covid-19 feel they are being “swept under the carpet” by the Government, MPs have heard.

Grieving family members said they have written three times to the Prime Minister asking to meet and share their experiences but coronavirus officials were unable to meet “due to the current pandemic”.

Speaking to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), Jo Goodman, from the Bereaved Families for Justice, said:

“We wrote to the Prime Minister three times beginning on June 11, asking him to meet with bereaved families and also to Matt Hancock, calling for a public inquiry and calling for them to meet with us and hear our experiences. At first we only received a two-line acknowledgement and eventually a letter saying they are unable to meet with us due to the current pandemic. The fact that they’re able to meet with cycling groups and other groups, it feels as though we are being swept under the carpet. We really do want to ensure that other people don’t go through this and we think it is really important that bereaved families’ voices are heard.”

Ms Goodman, lost her father Stuart after he was diagnosed with Covid-19 aged 72.


Rehab service for coronavirus survivors launched to deal with long term health problems:

Tens of thousands of people who are suffering long-term effects of coronavirus will benefit from an on-demand recovery service, the head of the NHS has announced today.

Nurses and physiotherapists will be on hand to reply to patients’ needs either online or over the phone as part of the service.

The  “Your COVID Recovery” forms part of NHS plans to expand access to Covid-19 rehabilitation treatments for those who have survived the virus but still have problems with breathing, mental health problems or other complications.