UK coronavirus LIVE: Tier 3 lockdown restrictions begin for millions as London boroughs suffer Covid crisis 'double whammy'

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  • October 23, 2020
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Millions of Britons will live under tougher coronavirus restrictions from today as new tiered measures and a two-week circuit-breaker come into force in England and Wales.

The 2.8 million people of Greater Manchester joined Liverpool City Region and Lancashire in the “very high risk” Tier 3 from midnight last night, while Wales’s population of 3.1 million will begin a 17-day “firebreak” lockdown at 6pm.

South Yorkshire will also move into the top Covid alert level from midnight, while Coventry, Stoke and Slough will join regions including London and Essex in Tier 2.

It comes as new analysis revealed that six London boroughs have suffered the highest levels of furloughed workers in the UK and soaring numbers of unemployment benefit claimants, as the economic damage wreaked by the Covid-19 crisis was laid bare.

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said “15,000 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 over the last 14 days” in Ireland

He added: “It is vital for everyone with a recent diagnosis to self-isolate for the full 10 days to protect the people they live with, the people they love and people in their communities from this highly infectious disease.

“Self-isolate means stay at home, stay in your room as much as possible, stay away from other people, including those in your household.

“If you live with someone who has Covid-19 or you have been told that you are a close contact, you must restrict your movements for a full 14 days. Stay at home – don’t go to work, don’t go to school.

“I appeal to everyone to behave as though you are a close contact. Stay at home, other than for essential reasons.

“Now is the time to use our reserves of energy and dig deep in our efforts to follow the public health advice – keep your distance, wash your hands and wear a face covering. Play your part to break the chains of transmission across families, neighbours and communities.”


Ireland records 777 new coronavirus cases

A further seven Covid-19 linked deaths and 777 new cases of the virus have been reported in Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team has announced.

The death toll now stands at 1,878 while the total number of infections since the pandemic began is 55,261.

On Friday afternoon, 319 Covid-19 patients were in hospital in Ireland, 37 of whom were in ICUs.


Kensington and Chelsea joins councils supporting Rashford’s campaign

The Conservative council in charge of London’s wealthiest borough has thrown its support behind Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign after MPs in Parliament rejected the measure.

Amid a grassroots rebellion over the Government’s refusal to back the scheme, Kensington and Chelsea joined town halls up and down the country by pledging to fund meals for eligible pupils over the October half term.

Read more here…


Marcus Rashford thanks ‘superstar’ supporters

After spending the day retweeting businesses and councils offering help to families over the school holidays, Marcus Rashford tweeted: “I’m signing off with a feeling a pride tonight. The superstars of this nation lie in local communities.

“Even after taking the biggest hits you have wrapped your arms around your community to catch children as they fell. I really can’t thank you enough, you’re amazing.”


France surpasses landmark of one million confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic

The country has become the second nation in Western Europe after Spain to reach the mark. France’s national health agency announced 42,032 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 1.04 million cases.

Health experts say the actual numbers are likely higher because of a lack of testing, asymptomatic cases and reporting issues.

French President Emmanuel Macron called on citizens to respect a nightly curfew and other measures to fight the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Mr Macron says cases are “very strongly accelerating”, with coronavirus patients occupying more than 42 per cent of ICU beds nationally and 64 per cent in the Paris region.

The government announced a six-week curfew from 9pm to 6am in 46 regions and Polynesia. France has more than 34,200 deaths, the fourth-highest death toll in Europe behind Britain, Italy and Spain.


Fake coronavirus marshals and phoney medical professionals are pretending to be genuine to get inside people’s homes

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said the scam is an updated form of one in the summer involving fake healthcare professionals offering bogus Covid-19 tests on doorsteps.

Covid-secure marshals were announced as part of a Government plan to enforce stricter rules on social gatherings.

They have no formal powers and do not have the right to enter anyone’s home.

The Prime Minister said last month that the marshals would “boost the local enforcement capacity”, but the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said they would not be given enforcement powers in new legislation.

Katherine Hart, CTSI’s lead officer for doorstep crime, said: “Since March we have seen so many different instances of fraudsters using the pandemic as an opportunity to defraud the public.

“These scams are shifting in their theme as the rules and regulations change with individuals now pretending to be Covid-19 secure marshals.

“Covid-19 secure marshals will never come to your door unannounced and do not have the right of entry, or the right to issue fines.”


Health chiefs have decided against reintroducing formal advice for people deemed vulnerable to Covid-19 to shield from wider society in Northern Ireland

Shielding was paused in Northern Ireland on July 31. During the first wave of the pandemic around 80,000 people assessed as being clinically vulnerable to the virus were urged to stay at home and avoid contact with others.

Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said the decision to keep the advice on pause was made after carefully weighing up all the evidence. “Since shielding was first advised, a number of important changes have taken place in our approach to managing coronavirus and reducing its transmission,” he explained.

“This includes a greater awareness of the importance of social distancing, the requirement to use face coverings, Covid-19 secure workplaces and greater adherence to respiratory and hand hygiene.

“Having carefully weighed up all the evidence, including the impact on mental health and I have decided that shielding should remain paused at this stage. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable then it is of course important to take extra precautions and follow the public health advice.

“Continue to be particularly careful in following the advice on limiting household contacts, keeping social distance, hand washing and wearing a face covering.”


No testing capacity issues at Glasgow Lighthouse laboratory, insists director

Scottish ministers blamed Sunday’s late coronavirus cases report on capacity issues at the UK Government’s Lighthouse lab, but the UK Government denied there were any testing capacity problems and described the allegations as “categorically untrue”.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned the 316 positive cases figure released on Sunday – significantly lower than in the previous weeks, having not been around this level since the 356 reported on September 27 – should be “treated with some caution due to a processing delay within the UK lab system”.

The laboratory is part of a network of diagnostic testing facilities at Lighthouse sites around the UK, including in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, and Alderley Park in Cheshire.

The Glasgow facility is hosted by the University of Glasgow at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus, and it currently processes around 50,000 tests a day from across the UK though primarily from Scotland.

Carol Clugston, director of the laboratory where around 500 people work, told the PA news agency: “We don’t have problems with capacity, what we do is we report what our capacity is week to week so currently our capacity is about 50,000 tests per day.

“Across the UK network there are logistic teams that actually make sure the tests that we get sent to us are in line with our capacity so that we don’t get more than we can process or that we don’t get less, that we have unused capacity. Generally that works very well. It is a very complex system, we’re not involved in that but generally it works well.”


Police urge people to comply with Covid-19 regulations ahead of protests and events expected to take place in London this weekend

The Metropolitan Police have issued an open letter to anyone who is organising or planning to take part in any public gathering, warning that they may be at risk of committing a criminal offence.

The force said they “strongly advise” people not to attend any large gatherings for the protection of themselves and others. Officers will be engaging with crowds at events, explaining and encouraging those present to stick to the rules.

Those who fail to comply, deliberately ignore the instructions of officers and put other people at risk of transmitting the virus will be subjected to enforcement action in line with the regulations, the Met said.

Under current regulations, no one can participate in a gathering of more than six people outdoors unless certain exemptions apply. Protests including an anti-Trump demonstration, a protest over the detention of Hong Kong demonstrators and a Save Our Rights march are planned for this weekend.

As well as these, officers have also received information that unlicensed music events (UMEs) are being organised across the capital.

The Met said these events remain illegal and officers will look to shut them down and take action against organisers.


Latest data on coronavirus cases in England hospitals is in:

A further 131 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 31,558, NHS England said on Friday.

Patients were aged between 45 and 99. All except two, aged 77 and 91, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between September 13 and October 22. Eight other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.


Talks about increasing coronavirus restriction in Nottinghamshire are ongoing

In a joint statement released after their second meeting with the Government, local leaders in Nottinghamshire said: “We can confirm that talks are continuing between Government and the council leaders of Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe and that those discussions have been constructive.

“Our collective priority is to reach a position where any additional measures would offer the strongest possible protection for our most vulnerable people while aiming to also achieve the best outcomes for local businesses, jobs and livelihoods.

“We will formally announce any new restrictions and clearly communicate what this will mean for our communities as soon as they are finalised.”


UK holidaymakers are flocking to the Canary Islands following the easing of coronavirus quarantine restrictions

Travel firms such as Tui, easyJet, Hays Travel and On the Beach reported a surge in demand since the change in Government policy was announced on Thursday night.

Holidaymakers returning from the Spanish islands no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days from 4am on Sunday after the destination was added to the list of travel corridors.

Tui reported that the number of people searching online for trips to the popular winter sun destination was seven times higher in the hours after the announcement, compared with the previous day.

Managing director Andrew Flintham claimed this “phenomenal reaction” demonstrated “just how much people want a holiday”.

He went on: “Our half-term bookings have soared since the announcement, with 25 per cent of those booked to travel to the Canaries departing for the islands (on Saturday) or Sunday. We’re really pleased to be able to take customers away for a much needed break to our most popular mid-haul destinations.

“This is a positive step forward and we hope we can now look forward to the introduction of airport testing which will allow us to open up more destinations in the coming weeks.”


Latest figures on numbers of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital:

The number of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital on Wednesday – the most recent daily figures available – and the total number of patients in hospital and those on ventilators in each region of England, as of Friday, are as follows (previous week’s figure in brackets):

East of England – 50 admitted (27), 316 in hospital (213), 28 on ventilators (19)

London – 114 (76), 625 (457), 98 (80)

Midlands – 197 (129), 1,213 (801), 142 (95)

North East & Yorkshire – 271 (167), 1,595 (1,132), 105 (107)

North West – 252 (223), 2,130 (1,637), 190 (152)

South East – 65 (38), 391 (256), 17 (12)

South West – 48 (46), 248 (151), 21 (17)


Conservative mayor criticises Government’s “last-minute” decision-making on children’s free meals funding

West Midlands mayor Andy Street said: “It should not be a last-minute thing, this should be planned for, there should be a national approach on this.”

He added the lack of planning meant there was now an “indiscriminate arrangement” across the country as to whether free school meals would be provided over the break.

Mr Street said the Government should make “a clear decision” on whether it would or would not fund free school meals over holidays “well in advance”.

Asked if the Government should have to fund half-term meals, he said: “I think – at the last minute – you probably do have to fund it, is the answer to that.”

It comes as the Labour leader of Birmingham City Council pledged to provide 61,000 eligible youngsters with meals, while the mayor of Liverpool said he was “not prepared to stand by and watch”, as he announced £300,000 of funding.


More than 6,000 patients with Covid-19 in England hospitals, according to latest data

Separate Government figures show there were 6,518 Covid-19 patients in hospital in England on Friday, up from 4,647 a week ago, while 601 were in ventilation beds, up from 482 a week ago.

A total of 997 patients with confirmed Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in England on Wednesday, the latest figure available, compared with 706 a week earlier.


More than 20,000 new cases in the UK

The Government said that, as of 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 20,530 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 830,998.

The Government said a further 224 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, as of Friday. This brings the UK total to 44,571.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 59,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.


Wales’s firebreak is about “saving lives, not Christmas”, says First Minister Mark Drakeford

Mr Drakeford warned that hundreds more people would die from coronavirus across Wales “unless we act now to bring this deadly disease under control”.

On Friday, the Welsh Labour leader also blamed a decade of austerity imposed by the UK Government for leaving Wales’s health service at risk of being overwhelmed by rising numbers of people infected with Covid-19.

He said the public’s compliance with the newest set of restrictions, which come into force at 6pm on Friday and last until November 9, would give hope that the country could “enjoy a version” of Christmas in two months time.

But Mr Drakeford stressed the measures “are about saving lives, not Christmas”. He told the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 press briefing: “That’s the seriousness of the position we are in. Our ambition is we will not need to have this level of restriction again in Wales before Christmas.

“I want shops to be able to trade. I want people to be able to prepare. I want to offer people some hope that, provided we all do the right things, then we will still be able to enjoy a version of the holiday that we would have otherwise enjoyed.”