Foreign Office advises against all non-essential travel to Spain as cases jump by 6,000
The Foreign office is now advising against all non-essential travel to Spain – including the Balearic and Canary Islands.
On Saturday tens of thousands of British holidaymakers had their holidays thrown into disarray after the Government imposed an immediate two-week quarantine for anyone returning from mainland Spain.
The latest advice now includes the Balearic and Canary Islands and comes after the country logged 6,000 new cases over the weekend.
“We have considered the overall situation for British nationals travelling to and from the Balearic and Canary Islands, including the impact of the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK, and concluded that we should advise British nationals against all non-essential travel to the whole of Spain,” an FCO spokesperson said in response to the changes.
Currently the Government does not advising those already in Spain to leave at this time, but those travelling back to the UK will be required to self-isolate for at least two weeks on return.
Malawi’s surge in early pregnancies blamed on pandemic school closures
School closures in Malawi due to the coronavirus pandemic have led to an alarming increase in child marriages and early pregnancies, child rights activists and government officials warned on Monday.
The Malawian government announced the closure of all schools on March 20, even before a single coronavirus case had been reported in the landlocked country.
However, over the past four months, infections have surged with a total of 3,664 cases registered so far, including 99 deaths.
Civil Society Coalition on Education director Benedicto Kondowe told AFP that the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the course of young women’s lives.
He pointed out that before the pandemic struck, Malawi already had one of the highest rates of child marriages in the world.
But now “Covid-19 has led to a surge in underage unions”, Kondowe said. “Ever since schools closed to help combat the spread of Covid-19, remote areas have reported an increase in child marriages,” he said.
Kondowe’s organisation has reported 5,000 cases of teenage pregnancies in the southern Phalombe district, while over 500 girls have entered into early marriages since the onset of the pandemic.
“What the figures show is that girls lack the needed protection as they get plunged into the margin of life,” Kondowe said, adding that increases in gender-based violence, exploitation and other forms of abuse against adolescent girls had also been noted.
‘Doing nothing is not an option’: Prof Whitty
Addressing members of the Cabinet’s “Covid-O” committee on Saturday afternoon, Chris Whitty made one thing clear: doing nothing was not an option.
The six senior ministers on the video call had just been given the news they had been dreading – that Britons had started to import coronavirus from a country deemed “safe” by the Government.
Only two days earlier, Spain had been controversially kept on the UK’s “air bridges” list, meaning people arriving from there did not have to go into quarantine.
But the Chief Medical Officer said the picture had worsened considerably over 48 hours. The number of new cases had leapt by 75 per cent and 15 out of Spain’s 19 regions were showing an increase in infections.
The “clincher”, however, was the news that 10 Britons who had tested positive for coronavirus since July 1 had reported visiting Spain in the 14 days before their test.
Gordon Rayner has more on this story here.
Virtual queuing to be introduced in Sainsbury’s
The great British pastime of queuing patiently is set to become the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic as supermarkets are launching apps allowing people to ‘virtually’ wait in line while sat in the comfort of their cars.
Sainsbury’s has announced it will start trialling a new ‘virtual queuing’ app from Monday, which will let people book an online place in the social-distanced lines outside its supermarkets.
Customers will then be able to wait in their cars or a nearby coffee shop until they receive an alert telling them they are close to the front of the queue.
The great British pastime of queuing patiently is set to become the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic as supermarkets are launching apps allowing people to ‘virtually’ wait in line while sat in the comfort of their cars.
Sainsbury’s has announced it will start trialling a new ‘virtual queuing’ app from Monday, which will let people book an online place in the social-distanced lines outside its supermarkets.
Customers will then be able to wait in their cars or a nearby coffee shop until they receive an alert telling them they are close to the front of the queue.
Mike Wright reports. Read more on this here.
Teachers among workers warned not risk overseas travel
Teachers have been warned about travelling abroad at the end of the summer holidays as the Department of Education says that schools should “avoid a member of staff having to quarantine during term time”.
Schools staff are among thousands of workers who cannot work from home and have been warned that they will need to take unpaid leave or miss out on two weeks wages if they find themselves caught up in quarantine when they return from holiday.
Hayley Dixon has the story here.
Police crack down on ‘illegal’ staycations
Wild camping patrols have been launched by police after amid a rise in illegal staycations during the coronavirus pandemic.
Authorities across the country have reported a rise in people camping at beauty spots without permission, or parking their campervans in motorway lay bys.
Last week the National Trust said it had seen a huge increase in so-called “fly camping”, where litter and the remains of campfires are left behind.
Bill Gardner reports here.
Irish schools to reopen at the end of August
Ireland’s schools will reopen at the end of August as the nation navigates its way out of coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said Monday.
Ireland’s blueprint for reopening schools for the first time since mid-March includes 370 million euros (£337 million) in spending to ensure safety.
The package will allow schools to hire 1,000 more post-primary teachers to reduce class sizes and enable social distancing, the government said.
“There is no zero-risk scenario, but we can dramatically limit the risk of the spread of the virus through our schools,” Martin said.
The new money will also cover the costs of protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and make special provisions for those deemed vulnerable to Covid-19.
Psychologists and other forms of emotional support will also be mobilised.
“Major emergencies always lead to a much higher level of anxiety and other similar issues,” Martin told reporters.”We fully understand that we can’t just declare that the schools are open and carry on as if nothing had happened.”
Bulgaria eases travel bans for tourists from Ukraine
Bulgaria will allow tourists from Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, Moldova, Israel and Kuwait to visit its resorts as of July 28 if they have negative Covid-19 tests, the health ministry said.
The negative tests have to be done 72 hours prior to arrival. Tourists from Ukraine will be allowed on the same grounds as of July 30, the ministry said in a statement.
Bulgaria is eager to help its struggling Black Sea summer resorts, where foreign visits have plunged due to travel bans over the coronavirus pandemic.
Rise of the anti-maskers
A divisive new battleground has emerged in recent weeks between Britons who are angry at being forced to wear face masks, and those equally furious about non-compliance.
Libertarians, massing under the banner ‘Keep Britain Free’, complain that covering up is an affront to civil rights, and largely pointless when pubs and restaurants are exempt.
Pro-maskers, operating under the ‘mask it or casket’ slogan, brand the dissenters selfish, with some shops even installing mirrors which state: “We have provided this space away from everyone else where you can stare at your reflection, since apparently you’re the only person you care about.”
Somewhere in the middle are those who grudgingly wear masks, but still feel a gnawing unease.
But according to experts, there are fundamental reasons why masks make people uncomfortable, ranging from their historical links to crime and disease, to how they change human interaction.
Sarah Knapton explains more here.
Cost of foreign holidays set to fall as travellers fear trips abroad
The cost of foreign holidays is set to fall as experts say holidaymakers are now too scared to book trips abroad.
After the Government changed the quarantine advice for those returning from Spain with just five hours’ notice, industry experts have said that what little consumer confidence is left will be “shattered”.
It is believed that there will be a rise in the number of cancellations and a drop in the number of people even booking last minute, meaning that those who are willing to take the risk could get a trip away at a bargain price.
Hayley Dixon has more on this story here.
France reports 2,551 new cases in three days
France has reported 2,551 new confirmed cases over the last three days, the country’s health department said on Monday.
The latest figures work out as a daily average of 850 over that period.
That is slightly lower than the 1,000-plus figure published on Thursday and Friday but higher than the 677 daily average seen since the beginning of the month.
“Entirely illogical” for shop staff not to wear face coverings, British Medical Association says
Shop staff should be wearing face coverings in the same way that customers are required to, according to the British Medical Association which has criticised the “confusing” Government policy.
Friday marked the first day that people in England have been legally obliged to wear a face covering in shops, shopping centres, banks, takeaway outlets, post offices, sandwich shops and supermarkets.
While staff do not currently have to follow the rules, the BMA says they should also apply to workers to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, unless there are additional mitigations such as the use of barriers or screens.
The BMA said the current situation is “entirely illogical” and said employers should protect their staff and customers by requiring both to wear face coverings in the absence of a Government mandate.
The union believes that face coverings should be worn in all settings where physical distancing between people from different “bubbles” is not possible and no other mitigating measures are put in place.
“The virus does not discriminate between customers and staff, so to have one rule for one group, and a different for another, is entirely illogical,” Dr Peter English, BMA public health medicine committee chairman, said.
“Shop staff, for example, are likely to encounter many different people during their shift, and without other mitigating measures – for example cashiers sitting behind individual plastic screens – they too should be wearing effective face coverings.
“Customers being asked to wear face coverings will rightly question why staff are not required to do the same, and so businesses should lead by example, and honour their duty of care to both their employees and the public.
BREAKING: Foreign office advises against all non-essential travel to Spain
The Foreign Office has changed its advice and is now advising against all non-essential travel to Spain, the Balearic and Canary Islands, after initially only advising against travel to mainland Spain, Sky News has reported.
The Foreign Office has changed its advice and is now advising against all non-essential travel to Spain, the Balearic and Canary Islands, after initially only advising against travel to mainland Spain
— Sky News Breaking (@SkyNewsBreak) July 27, 2020
Spain offers to pay for tourist tests
Spain’s hard-hit hotels offered on Monday to pay for foreign tourists to take coronavirus tests, in an effort to lure back visitors worried by a fresh wave of cases and put off by Britain’s sudden imposition of a two-week quarantine.
This Saturday the UK Government shocked hoteliers and holidaymakers with an unexpected 14-day quarantine on people returning from Spain, in a major blow to a tourist season already hanging on by a thread.
“Not only is it unjust but it’s also totally illogical and lacking in rigour,” Spain’s main hotel association CEHAT said of the quarantine.
Instead, the association proposed a system of reciprocal testing across Europe and said its members would cover the cost for tourists coming to Spain.
Australia outbreaks attributed to sick workers
Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has posted a new daily record of 532 new Covid-19 cases, as a government leader warned that a lockdown in the city of Melbourne will continue if infected people continue to go to work instead of staying home.
Melbourne is almost half way through a six-week lockdown aimed at curbing community spread of the coronavirus. Mask wearing in Australia’s second-largest city became compulsory last week.
The new cases and six deaths reported on Monday surpass a previous record of 484 new infections reported last Wednesday.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the biggest source of the new infections is people continuing to go to work after showing symptoms.
“This is what is driving these numbers up and the lockdown will not end until people stop going to work with symptoms and instead go and get tested,” Andrews said.
Tories demand BBC stop showing Nicola Sturgeon daily briefings
The Scottish Tory leader has demanded the BBC stop broadcasting Nicola Sturgeon’s daily Covid-19 briefing after publishing an analysis claiming to show they have descended into an “SNP party political broadcast.”
Jackson Carlaw said the First Minister was “quite right” to conduct daily televised press conferences in the first months of the pandemic as Scots sought the latest information about the disease and the government’s restrictions.
But he said that they have more recently contained less of substance, as the virus receded, and Ms Sturgeon has reverted to “increasingly partisan” attacks on the UK Government.
Simon Johnson has more on this story here.
Czech Republic seeks ‘smart quarantine’ reboot as virus cases rise
The Czech government has announced an overhaul of its much-criticised system of tracking and isolating contacts of people with Covid-19 as it battles a spike in new infections.
The government launched its “smart quarantine” system in the spring as it sought to ease nationwide restrictions imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19, but it has come under increased criticism, including by ministers, for being ineffective.
The central European country of 10.7 million has fought several local outbreaks in the past month, pushing the daily increase in new coronavirus cases to over 100 on most days in July after a period when cases mostly rose in the double digits.
Under the new plans, an oversight body led by Prime Minister Andrej Babis will manage the smart quarantine programme, which uses mobile data to track those who have come into contact with infected people.
The army will take over from the health ministry logistical duties such as testing points and laboratories.
Spain’s total coronavirus cases jump by more than 6,000 over weekend
Spain reported a cumulative total of 278,782 coronavirus cases on Monday, health ministry data showed, up from 272,421 on Friday, with the figure including results from antibody tests on people who may have already recovered.
A total of 855 new cases were diagnosed in the past day, while the ministry is monitoring 361 clusters across the country.
Spain does not report daily coronavirus data over the weekend.
Germany to impose virus tests on travellers from risk zones
Germany will make coronavirus tests mandatory for travellers returning from risk areas, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Monday, as fears rise that summer travel could spark a new surge in infections.
“We must prevent returning travellers from infecting others unnoticed and thus triggering new chains of infection. I will therefore order compulsory testing for travellers from risk areas,” Spahn wrote on Twitter.
On top of existing test centres at Bavarian airports, tests will now be offered at the Munich and Nuremberg train stations, as well as on three major motorway routes near the Austrian border.
“We cannot completely prevent corona, so the goal must be to detect it in time to stop it from spreading,” Soeder said.
Google extends work from home through June next year
Alphabet Inc’s Google has said it would allow employees, who do not need to be in the office, to work from home until the end of June 2021.
Google had said in May it would begin reopening more offices globally as early as June this year, but most Google employees would likely work from home until the end of this year.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, said Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai made the decision himself last week after debate among an internal group of top executives that he chairs.
Several other companies have also allowed most of their employees to work from home until the end of 2020 in a bid to safeguard them against the Covid-19 pandemic, with Twitter Inc proposing remote work for some of its employees indefinitely.
More than 45,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the UK, according to Gov figures
The Government said 45,759 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Sunday, up by seven from the day before.
This is the lowest number reported since March 12 but reporting is often lower on weekends.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have been more than 56,100 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
The Government also said in the 24-hour period up to 9am on Monday, there had been a further 685 lab-confirmed cases. Overall, a total of 300,111 cases have been confirmed.
Airport testing not a ‘surefire and safe route’ to protecting UK, says minister
Airport testing and temperature checks have been played down by a health minister, amid concerns over the impact of Covid-19 on summer holidays.
Lord Bethell said scepticism remains over the effectiveness of temperature checks, while a “frustrating but unavoidable truth” is a Covid-19 test does not necessarily mean a person is virus-free and will not show symptoms in the days ahead.
Testing at airports “cannot be a surefire and safe route” to protect the UK and isolation is the preferred approach, the minister explained to peers.
Belgium reimposes further restrictions
Belgium has also drastically cut the number of friends and family people are allowed to see as the country tries to ward off a second wave of Coronavirus.
Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced a tightening of “social bubble” rules amid rising infections and fears of another lockdown.
She unveiled the new measures, which come into force on Wednesday for four weeks, after a meeting of the National Security Council.
Under the new regime whole households will have to choose five friends or family members to socialise with.
Belgians could previously meet 15 different people per week, and individuals under the same roof were allowed to have their own social bubbles.
Attendance at personal events like weddings and parties will also be limited to 10 people.
Kenya restricts alcohol sales to halt ‘aggressive surge’ of virus
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has banned the sale of alcohol in eateries and restaurants and extended a curfew in a bid to halt a steep rise in coronavirus infections.
Kenyatta delivered a stern dressing down to Kenyans for “reckless” behaviour that has seen cases triple in the past month to 17,975, while 285 have died.
He said there was notably an “aggressive surge” among young people who were socialising “particularly in environments serving alcohol” and were in turn infecting their elders.
He ordered that a nationwide curfew from 9:00 pm to 4:00 am will remain in place for another 30 days and “there shall be no sale of alcoholic beverages or drinks in eateries and restaurants” over the same period. Restaurants will also close from 7:00 pm.
The impossible choice faced by Colombia’s indigenous communities
Colombia’s indigenous communities face an impossible choice: risk coronavirus or go hungry. Sophie Foggin reports:
When María Orfilia fled the Emberá Chamí indigenous community in Risaralda, Colombia 20 years ago she thought she was escaping danger.
Fleeing threats against her family from armed guerrilla groups, she set off at 11pm and walked throughout the night, until she and her nine-month-old baby arrived at the main road to catch the morning bus to the city.
Arriving in Medellín – Colombia’s second-largest city – Ms Orfilia was optimistic. But now the coronavirus pandemic has made her want to return to her community.
Ms Orfilia lives with her family in Santo Domingo, a poor neighbourhood which sprawls 400m up the hillside from the city centre and is a hub for informal commerce.
Although she has managed to dodge the virus, she has been unable to sell her handmade necklaces since national quarantine was imposed on March 20.
And while she struggles to put food on the table, the household bills keep coming.
Read more here.
Belgian PM outlines new restrictions
Belgium’s Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has announced a series of further restrictive measures following a significant surge in coronavirus infections, warning that the country could be put into a second “complete lockdown”.
“If we cannot reduce the coronavirus, it will be a collective failure,” Wilmès said at a press conference following a meeting of the country’s national security council.
Wilmès said she “very strongly recommended” the return of teleworking for those who are able to do so, and announced that for a period of four weeks from Wednesday, each household may only have social contact with a further five people.
Further restrictions include people having to go shopping alone and restricting themselves to just 30 minutes in a shop, group outings will be limited to ten people (except for children 12 and under), and the city of Antwerp will take extra measures to be announced later today in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus.
“We know that if we do not intervene drastically, even the start of the school year could be undermined,” she said. “We are taking strong, difficult measures to avoid this [complete] lockdown. You can continue to confine, limit freedoms but we want to avoid the situation of March which was very trying on a human level, especially for the weakest among us.
“Experts say it is possible to avoid another lockdown. But it must be remembered that the world’s leading scientists are incapable of knowing how the situation will develop. We must not frighten people, but neither should we abuse them by pretending to know everything.”
Free the Vaccine calls on UK scientific community to sign Open Covid Pledge
Free the Vaccine for Covid-19, a global collective of artists, activists and taxpayers, are calling on the UK scientific community to sign the Open Covid Pledge to ensure that any vaccine or treatment developed will be made available and affordable for all.
The group took their costumed “carnival march” to London universities today, and called on them to use their public funding to guarantee a “people’s vaccine”.
“Vaccine nationalism” will leave billions of people living in poor countries at the back of the queue, the group argues, their governments unable to compete in resources to buy up the vaccines in advance, which will leave “billions denied a shot at life”.
“We don’t want profits being made from this pandemic, we want a People’s Vaccine, available to the world,” said medical student Rebecca Hotchkin.
“Our universities are doing life-saving research. We want them to sign the Open Covid Pledge, to guarantee that their work will help protect everyone,” said medical student Ayesha Khan. “History tells us that when the drug companies step in, poor people lose out.”
By signing the Open Covid Pledge, signatories agree to make the intellectual property on their products available free of charge for use in ending the Covid-19 pandemic.
10 further hospital deaths in England
A further ten hospital deaths of people who tested positive for Covid-19 have been recorded by NHS England.
Meanwhile, there have been no further deaths of patients with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Travel bans should not continue indefinitely, WHO warns
International travel bans are not a “sustainable strategy” to halt the spread of Covid-19, the World Health Organization has warned, amid concerns that new infections are surging in parts of Europe.
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies programme, told a virtual press conference that decisions about travel restrictions are “difficult” as there is no “one size fits all” approach for governments across the globe to adopt.
But he added that “it’s going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future”.
“Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume,” Dr Ryan said. “We do believe that it is possible to identify and minimise the risk associated with international travel.”
Throughout the pandemic the WHO has urged countries not to introduce blanket border closures due to the knock on effects on trade, the economy, humanitarian aid work and everyday life.
Sarah Newey has more here.
Owners can infect cats but not the other way around, say experts
Following the news that a pet cat in the UK has contracted the coronavirus, experts have said that there is no suggestion that cats can give the virus to their owners, and that domestic animals don’t get very sick from it.
The cat has also made a full recovery.
“It is very interesting to hear of the cat that has been found to be mildly infected following positive Covid-19 diagnoses in its owner. It has been clear for while that cats are susceptible to infection but there is no evidence that they can go on to infect humans,” said Prof James Wood, Head of Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge.
“A handful of pets in contact with infected human owners have been found to be infected around the world. The data overall continue to suggest that cats may become infected by their owners if their owners have Covid-19, but there is no suggestion that they may transmit it to owners. This reflects the advice that if possible, when infected, owners should keep their cats inside.”
Prof Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology at the University of Nottingham, said: “We know that domestic animals like cats and dogs can be infected with the SARS2 coronavirus, but the evidence suggests that the animals don’t get sick. They produce very low levels of virus, which is why we don’t think they can transmit the virus to humans. The best thing you can do to protect your pets, is to avoid close contact if you are, or think you might be, infected with the virus.”
Daniella Dos Santos, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: “We have been in touch with vets in Government and the local veterinary practice for information and have been informed that the cat only showed mild clinical signs and has since made a full recovery.”
Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien tests positive for virus
Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has tested positive for Covid-19, but the White House said his infection poses no risk to president Donald Trump or vice president Mike Pence.
O’Brien “has mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site,” the White House said in a statement. “There is no risk of exposure to the president or the vice president,” it said.
Bloomberg reports that O’Brien, 54, the closest person to the president to contract the disease, has been out of the office since late last week, according to a person familiar with the matter.
O’Brien reportedly contracted the virus while taking a few days off from work to spend time with his family.
Online sales tax under consideration by ministers
A new tax on goods sold online is being considered by ministers as part of efforts to protect the high street and repair the battered public finances.
A call for evidence on the issue acknowledged that many retailers are opposed to such a levy but noted that the existing business rates system favoured online firms over those with high-rental value shops.
Downing Street said the Covid-19 pandemic had already had a “significant impact” on the way business is done and the Government needed to ensure that the tax system raised enough money to fund public services.
The call for evidence was examining the business rates system and potential alternatives.
“As part of this we will consider the case for introducing alternative taxes as part of the review, including an online sales tax,” the spokesman said.
“The pandemic has had a significant impact on how business is done and the effect of this will become clearer over time.
“We will continue to support businesses as far as possible but we must also ensure that the tax system raises sufficient revenue to fund our vital public services.”
What symptoms did the coronavirus cat have?
Downing Street said the cat which caught coronavirus had symptoms including shortness of breath.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The test was carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency laboratory having been referred by a private vet who the owners had taken the cat to see.
“Its symptoms were a respiratory infection with a nasal discharge and some shortness of breath.”
Coronavirus around the world, in pictures
Holby City to air special coronavirus episode
Filming has resumed on Holby City and the show will return with a special episode that sees the hospital gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, the BBC has announced.
The special episode will see Holby City’s CEO Max (Jo Martin) wrestle to keep the hospital in control and her staff safe as the pandemic takes hold.
The Holby City production team has developed comprehensive production protocols to ensure that the series is made safely and social distancing will be adhered to in accordance with current Government guidelines.
Kate Oates, head of continuing drama at BBC Studios, said: “It’s with great pleasure that we open the doors at Elstree to welcome back the exceptional cast and crew of Holby City.
“We have some gripping stories to tell as we explore how the lives of our characters have been irrevocably changed since the start of the pandemic – and how our heroes battle against the odds, come what may.”
The BBC One soap will return to screens later this year, with slightly shorter episodes at 40 minutes long.
‘No travel is risk-free’ during pandemic, Downing St says
Downing Street said that “no travel is risk-free” during the pandemic and warned holidaymakers that “disruption is possible” when heading abroad.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Decisions on border measures and travel advice can be changed rapidly if necessary to help stop the spread of the disease.
“Unfortunately no travel is risk-free during this pandemic and disruption is possible and so anyone travelling abroad should be aware that our travel advice and exemption list is under constant review as we monitor the international situation.”
Holidaymakers who miss work due to quarantine may be eligible for Universal Credit
Downing Street has said that holidaymakers who miss out on work because of the quarantine period may be eligible for Universal Credit or employment support allowance but not statutory sick pay.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman reiterated that the Government expects employers to be “flexible” in allowing staff to work from home while self-isolating.
“Where this isn’t possible we would expect that many employers would have their own policies in place for quarantine and we know that some continue to offer full pay for all or some of the isolation period,” he added.
“But if there are people who need urgent support then they may be entitled to the new-style employment support allowance or Universal Credit.”
Pressed on whether ministers would review statutory sick pay eligibility, he said: “We always keep our response to the pandemic under review and we regularly assess the support available but there is support available for those in need.”
Michael Portillo blasts Spain quarantine
Michael Portillo, former Conservative cabinet minister and travel presenter, told Radio 4’s World at One that the Government’s decision to reimpose quarantine restrictions on arrivals from Spain was “an aggressive and unwarranted act” which was “creating maximum confusion and economic damage”
He said that while it might be “reasonable” to impose quarantine on arrivals from Catalonia, because of the high number of cases there, blanket quarantine measures were unjustified. The Canary Islands were as far from Barcelona as Barcelona was from London, he said.
He also said that, because the quarantine rules were not being properly enforced, quarantine was “a political gesture” with no great health benefits. But it was damaging to the economy, he argued.
Read more: Spain tourists describe quarantine announcement chaos
No further deaths in Scotland
No new deaths of people who tested positive for Covid-19 have been recorded in Scotland in the last 24 hours – the 11th day in a row without any fatalities.
The latest Scottish Government figures show that 2,491 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for the virus.
A total of 18,554 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by three from 18,551 the day before.
There are 270 people in hospital with confirmed coronavirus and two patients are in intensive care.
Travellers frustrated over ‘knee-jerk’ Spain quarantine requirement
Travellers returning from Spain have expressed their frustration at the short-notice quarantine requirements.
Joe Allen, a TV producer from London, told the PA news agency: “We waited for the appropriate time and I specifically waited for the quarantine to have been lifted from Spain, and I absolutely wouldn’t have gone with a quarantine.
“We all sort of resigned ourselves in fact pretty quickly that there was nothing we could do about it, we just have to follow the rules and we get that, but I think we’re all frustrated.”
Laura Wood, 41, from Oxfordshire, flew from Gatwick to Spain’s Costa Blanca with her family for a two-week holiday, also returning on Sunday, shortly after the measures took effect.
She told PA: “It was a bit of a last-minute disappointment to the end of the holiday but we’re going to get on with it. There has to be a cut-off, I guess, and we were just on the unlucky side of it.”
Mrs Wood said she had experienced some “smug” responses from people at home and online after the measures were announced.
“I think it works both ways; I don’t think people can complain about the quarantine necessarily because we knew we were taking risks, but I think people’s joy at other people’s misfortune is a bit sad.”
Sophia Fadil, from Brighton, 32, works in retail after being made redundant during lockdown from her job in the travel industry, and is currently on holiday in the Alicante region with her partner, who is a nurse, and her five-year-old son.
She said the measures are a “slap in the face” for the travel industry. “It’s just a really rubbish situation as I kind of feel it’s one step forward and then two steps back when it comes to the travel industry,” she said.
“I probably wouldn’t have travelled out here had I known this in advance, so in a sense I’m kind of glad I’m already here.
“I think this was outrageous that the Government finally confirmed it three hours before it was implemented so that didn’t give anyone enough time to travel home if they needed to.”
Union boss calls for sick pay increase amid quarantine row
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady has called for sick pay to be increased and said “no one should suffer financially for following official advice to quarantine”.
She added: “It’s not holidaymakers’ fault that the guidance has changed.
“Wherever possible, employers should do the right thing and pay quarantined workers their full pay.
“The Government must also make it clear that people who can’t work from home during quarantine will be eligible for statutory sick pay.
“And they should increase sick pay from £95 a week to at least the level of the ‘real living wage’ of £320 a week.
“In addition, ministers should change the law to stop employers from sacking quarantined workers.”
Mapped: Where in Europe could be added to the quarantine list next?
It is not only Spain that has seen a rise in cases – infection rates have been rising across Europe in recent weeks.
In some countries, like Belgium, plans to reopen the country have been slowed to curb a second spike. Other countries, including Italy, are introducing new travel restrictions on arrivals from countries like Bulgaria and Romania which have seen rises in Covid-19 cases.
Senior ministers in France and Germany have both warned of possible new lockdowns as they fear second waves of Covid-19.
Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said the Government could “not make apologies” for its decision to put Spain on the quarantine list on Saturday. Mr Raab also warned that other nations could have quarantine reimposed, adding: “There is an element of uncertainty this summer.”
So the question is, could your holiday destination be affected? Here, Gregg Dickinson takes a look at the most popular European countries that are currently on the UK quarantine-free list – including France, Greece, Italy, Germany and Turkey – and crunch how cases are on the rise, and whether they could soon be added to the quarantine list.
Find out all you need to know here.
Quarantine for Britons returning from Canary Islands, Ibiza and Majorca could be axed
Ministers are considering removing quarantine measures for Britons returning from the Canary Islands and the Balearics, the Sun reports.
The paper reports that the move will have to be signed off by Boris Johnson after Spanish officials and tourism chiefs said that including the islands in the blanket quarantine ban should not apply.
Covid cases on the popular islands, including Ibiza, Majorca, Tenerife and Lanzarote are much lower than the mainland.
A Whitehall source close to the discussions reportedly told The Sun: “They are considering an exemption to the Balearic and Canary Islands.
“Their rates are lower so it may be on the cards – but the announcement may not come until the weekly review.”
They added: “There has been some debate as to whether they should be included as there is a lot of traffic between the mainland and the islands, and that’s where the issue is.
“But it will be a decision for the Covid group chaired by the PM but that’s being actively discussed.”
Italy faces dire summer tourism season as foreign arrivals plummet
Italy faces a dire summer holiday season, with the number of foreign tourists, including Britons, down by nearly 80 per cent.
Italy’s borders have been open to European holidaymakers since early June, but from the Alps to Sicily and Sardinia, there is still a chronic dearth of overseas visitors.
There are likely to be 75-80 per cent fewer foreign tourists in Italy this summer, according to Confcommercio, a business association.
That represents a heavy blow to the tourism sector, which accounts for 13 per cent of Italy’s GDP.
Nick Squires, in Rome, has more here.
WHO says Covid-19 by far its worst health emergency
The Covid-19 pandemic that has infected more than 16 million people is easily the worst global health emergency the World Health Organization (WHO) has faced, its director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today.
Only with strict adherence to health measures, from wearing masks to avoiding crowds, would the world manage to beat it, Tedros added at a virtual news briefing in Geneva.
“Where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they are not, cases go up,” he said, praising Canada, China, Germany and South Korea for controlling outbreaks.
WHO emergencies programme head Mike Ryan said that the need for nations around the world to keep up strict health restrictions like physical distancing was far more important than definitions of second waves, new peaks and localised clusters.
“What is clear is pressure on the virus pushes the numbers down. Release that pressure and cases creep back up,” he said, acknowledging, however, that it was virtually impossible for nations to keep borders shut for the foreseeable future.
Tedros emphasised the priority remained saving lives.
“We have to suppress transmission but at the same time we have to identify the vulnerable groups and save lives, keeping the death rates if possible to zero, if not to a minimum,” he said, praising Japan and Australia in that respect.
“This is the sixth time a global health emergency has been declared under the International Health Regulations, but it is easily the most severe”-@DrTedros https://t.co/JvKC0PTett
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) July 27, 2020
Moderna vaccine to be tested in 30,000 healthy people
A US biotechnology company has announced it has started a Government-backed late-stage trial to assess its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Reuters reports.
Moderna’s RNA-based vaccine will be given to about 30,000 adults who do not have the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.
The trial, named COVE, is the first to be implemented under the US Government’s Operation Warp Speed that aims to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19.
The US Government is supporting Moderna’s vaccine project with nearly a billion dollars and has chosen it as one of the first to enter large-scale human trials.
The main goal of the study will be prevention of the symptomatic Covid-19 disease, the company said.
Re-imposition of quarantine for visitors from Spain ‘almost inevitable’, says expert
Following the Government’s decision to reimpose quarantine restrictions on travellers returning from Spain and its islands, an expert has said that the move was “almost inevitable” when looking at case numbers.
“The re-imposition of quarantine for visitors returning from Spain was almost inevitable. From a low of only 280 cases per day (averaged over 7 days) in early June, the number of cases reported from Spain has increased, gradually at first but much more rapidly over the last two weeks to 1,738 on 21st July,” said Prof Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia.
“This is equivalent to 37 new cases per 1 million population each day. By contrast the UK is reporting only about 10 per 1 million population each day,” he added.
“We are indeed entering uncertain times at present with reported case numbers increasing in several European countries, including in the UK,” he continued.
“Against this background we cannot exclude having to re-impose quarantine on people returning from other counties or them imposing quarantine requirements on people coming from the UK. As we have seen this weekend, there is unlikely to be much notice of the intention to impose quarantine requirements when they do happen. For an infection that can potentially double the number of cases every few days delays can lead to substantially larger outbreaks. Governments have to react as soon as the data show an increase is real and looks like being sustained.”
Only one person fined by police for travel quarantine breach
Just one person has been fined by police for breaching quarantine rules after arriving from abroad, new figures from forces in England and Wales show.
The data released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) today comes after holidaymakers in Spain and its islands were told they would have to self-isolate for 14 days when returning to the UK.
It does not include fines issued by UK Border Force, which had issued three penalties by July 10, when quarantine rules for people returning to or visiting the UK from a list of countries were relaxed.
NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said enforcement of the regulations, breaches of which can be punished with fines of between £100 and £1,000, is primarily a matter for Border Force and public health officials.
He said compliance with the rules had been good, but added “it’s really difficult to understand how people will respond” after Spain was removed from the UK’s list of safe destinations over a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.
The ticket for breaching quarantine rules, which was issued by Lincolnshire Police, was one of only eight fixed penalty notices handed out in England in the two weeks to July 20, with none in Wales.
Some six of the fines were handed to people who failed to wear face coverings on public transport, making a total of 32 under the regulations introduced on June 15.
Papua New Guinea orders capital lockdown after first Covid death
Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister has ordered a swift lockdown of the capital and warned the number of coronavirus cases will likely explode in coming days, as the country recorded its first confirmed Covid-19 death.
AFP reports that as local testing kits ran out and hospital resources approached capacity, James Marape announced 23 new cases in the last 24 hours and said that without drastic action, “numbers will grow out of control.”
Papua New Guinea had seen only 11 cases until a week ago. The total now stands at 61, with new cases being found daily.
“The reality is, that based on reputable modelling, the number of cases in Papua New Guinea is much higher than that which has been recorded,” Marape warned. “Based on current numbers, we can expect to see a double in the number of cases every two to three days.”
In the face of the country’s first confirmed coronavirus death, a 35-year-old man, Marape announced a swathe of restrictions to help curb the spread of the virus.
The capital Port Moresby will close to non-essential business for 14 days from Tuesday, schools will be shuttered and a nighttime curfew imposed. Masks will also be mandatory in all public places, and domestic flights from the capital will be banned.
Experts fear a severe Covid-19 outbreak could be catastrophic in a country where malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are already significant problems. The country is also one of only a handful of places in the world where polio is still endemic.
Five things to read this lunchtime
Good afternoon. If you’re just joining us, here’s five stories from across our website that will keep you informed on all things coronavirus.
Belgium sees ‘worrying’ rise in virus cases
Belgium is seeing a “worrying” rise in coronavirus cases, health authorities warned today, with almost half of the new infections recorded around the port city of Antwerp.
There have been 1,952 new cases around Belgium over the past week, up by more than 70 per cent on the previous week, officials announced, as the country’s national security committee met to consider tougher measures to slow the spread of the virus.
“The rapid growth in the number of cases is worrying,” Frederique Jacobs, professor of infectious diseases and a spokeswoman for Belgium’s federal Covid-19 taskforce, told reporters.
She said the situation was particularly serious in the province of Antwerp, in northern Belgium, which recorded 47 per cent of new infections in the last week. Special local measures have been taken to try to contain the spike.
But Jacobs warned that “the number of infections is also rising considerably in the rest of the country”, with an average of 279 people a day contracting the virus in the last week, compared with 163 a day the week before.
“Most infections are still coming among the active population, that is to say people aged between 20 and 59,” Jacobs said.
Indonesia virus cases pass 100,000
Indonesia has confirmed its 100,000th case today as the Red Cross warned that the health crisis in the world’s fourth most populous country risked “spiralling out of control”.
The country – home to more than a quarter of a billion people – has been recording over 1,000 new daily infections after relaxing movement restrictions earlier this month in a bid to head off economic collapse.
As of tody, Indonesia had reported a total of 100,303 Covid-19 cases and 4,838 deaths, but with one of the world’s lowest testing rates, the true scale of its toll is widely believed to be much greater.
“We are intensifying our efforts to educate the public about the importance of changing their behaviour for good by physical distancing, wearing masks and practising good hygiene,” the Indonesian Red Cross said today, adding that it has enlisted some 7,000 volunteers nationwide.
“This calls for a unified, unprecedented, large-scale effort to reach all parts of society, in every corner of our country,” it added.
President Joko Widodo has called for higher testing rates and a tougher response, AFP reports, including threats to reshuffle his cabinet if ministers don’t do a better job at fighting the crisis.
France orders beach curfew at top Brittany resort after virus surge
French officials have ordered nighttime curfews for beaches in the Brittany resort of Quiberon after a Covid-19 cluster emerged last week, AFP reports.
Parks and gardens will also be closed nightly in a bid to prevent large gatherings of young people in particular, the Government’s top official for the region said late on Sunday.
Officials nationwide are on high alert as people travel the country for summer holidays, heightening the risk of new outbreaks as observance of social distancing rules wanes.
Face masks became mandatory in all enclosed public spaces last week, and the Government warned that localised lockdowns might again be required.
Quiberon, a picturesque peninsula popular with families, recorded its first virus case last Tuesday, and already the total has surged to 54.
Young BAME men more likely to get Covid fines than white men of same age
Young men from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds were almost twice as likely to be handed fines for breaches of Covid-19 lockdown rules than white men the same age, new figures show.
A National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) report published today concluded there has been “disproportionality” in the issuing of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) by forces in England and Wales.
The analysis shows that people from BAME backgrounds were handed fines at a rate of 1.6 times higher than white people between March 27 and May 25, with black and Asian people 1.8 times more likely to be handed tickets.
NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: “While it is a complex picture, it is a concern to see disparity between white and black, Asian or ethnic minority people.
“Each force will be looking at this carefully to assess and mitigate any risks of bias – conscious or unconscious – and to minimise disproportionate impact wherever possible.
“Many forces have brought in community representatives to help them scrutinise the circumstances around each FPN and if it has been issued fairly.
“We are working to develop a plan of action to address issues of inclusion and race equality that still exist in policing – like the lower trust in us from black communities, their concerns about use of powers like stop and search and the concerns from people of colour within policing about inclusivity and equality at work. The findings of this analysis will be further considered as part of that work.”
Comment: The Dfid merger could create a Department capable of tackling Yemen’s humanitarian crisis
In an increasingly dangerous, polarised and unequal world, can the departments use their combined assets to really make a difference, asks Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK.
On my last visit to Yemen I watched nurses in one of our clinics treat a seven-month old girl called Ayesha who was suffering from severe malnutrition. She weighed 3.7kg – the average birthweight of a child in the UK. “This is what war is doing to our children,” a doctor told me.
Now that the dust has settled on the decision to merge the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) into the Foreign Office (in the interests of transparency, I was not an enthusiast), the question that really matters is this: in an increasingly dangerous, polarised and unequal world, can the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) use its combined development and diplomatic assets to make a difference to the lives of children like Ayesha? I believe it can.
Yemen will be an early test. Over the last six years the country has come to symbolise the devastating impacts of war and poverty. Now Covid-19 is adding a new layer of suffering. The lives of more than two million severely malnourished children are hanging in the balance. The economy is in freefall. Forget hand-washing: half the population has no access to clean water. Most cannot afford soap.
Read the full piece here.
Earlier lockdown would have saved lives of London bus drivers, says report
The Guardian has reported that imposing an earlier lockdown in England would have saved lives, according to a report into the high death rate of London bus drivers in the pandemic by a leading expert on health and social inequalities.
The report was commissioned by Transport for London amid major concerns over the deaths of bus drivers in the capital, with male London bus drivers aged 20 to 65 being 3.5 times more likely to die from the virus between March and May than men in other occupations across England and Wales.
Sir Michael Marmot says drivers were at risk because of their job and also their underlying health as many had high blood pressure. They were also more likely to live in the boroughs most hit by the virus and many were from black and ethnic minority groups.
“Our review explicitly suggests that lockdown was the main factor that saved bus drivers’ lives. If lockdown had occurred earlier, it would likely have saved more lives,” said Prof Marmot, the director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity.
For those with high blood pressure, exposure to Covid-19 is particularly hazardous, disproportionately affecting drivers of ethnic minority backgrounds. In addition to reducing exposure to the virus, all drivers should therefore be screened for health risk, with those most vulnerable to dying from the virus receiving the most benefit.”
Why scientists aren’t celebrating a coronavirus vaccine yet
Risk, uncertainty and fear of failure: the scientific community is wrestling with how to deal with both public hesitancy and overblown expectations for a potential jab, reports Daniel Capurro.
The process for ensuring that vaccines are safe is well established and they are held to a much higher standard of safety than normal medicines, said Dr Mike Turner, the head of major science investments at the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical charity that funds global vaccine research.
“Inevitably, the safety bar is higher for vaccines than for drugs, because drugs you give to people who are already ill, vaccines you give to healthy people,” he said.
Many of the usual trial phases for vaccines are being run in parallel for Covid-19 candidates, but Dr Turner is adamant that what is taking place is not cutting corners. Instead, the risk created is one of “process”, that the time and money spent on preparing for the next phase turns out to have been wasted.
In case you missed it yesterday, you can read the full report here.
Some BAME health workers still waiting for Covid-19 risk assessment
More than a quarter of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) NHS staff are still waiting for a risk assessment for Covid-19, data suggests.
Figures seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) suggest that 73 per cent of BAME staff had had a risk assessment in England by July 17, but in some hospital trusts the figure was just 20 per cent, PA news agency reports.
Some trusts in the South West are thought to have made poorer progress than the national average, at 65 per cent, the HSJ said.
NHS England recommended risk assessments for BAME staff as long ago as April and has now extended the deadline for them to be completed to the end of July.
People from BAME backgrounds are thought to be at higher risk of poor outcomes from coronavirus, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying they are “disproportionately” dying from Covid-19.
Oxford study: Binge eating, alcohol and less physical activity hit England’s mental health during lockdown
Poor nutrition, decreased physical activity and increased binge eating and eating of processed snacks and alcohol during lockdown has adversely affected mental health in England, according to preliminary findings from an Oxford University study.
The survey, from the Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity (UBVO), found that poor eating and reduced physical activity have been important factors in negative mental health during lockdown.
It found that younger adults have disproportionately suffered with their mental health since the start of lockdown measures, that 46 per cent of respondents are less physically active, and that there has been an increase in binge eating.
Stanley Ulijaszek, Professor of Human Ecology and UBVO Director, said: “Lockdown has resulted in increased levels of anxiety, poor sleep, persistent sadness, binge eating, suicidal thoughts, snacking, consumption of alcohol and reduced levels of physical activity. These changes have potential long-term consequences for obesity rates and chronic disease more broadly.”
Rise in Covid cases in Germany ‘very concerning’, says disease control agency
Germany’s disease control agency said on Sunday evening that it was “worried” by a rise in Covid-19 cases, after some 800 new cases were confirmed on consecutive days, reports Jörg Luyken.
The increase is “very concerning and will continue to be monitored very closely. A further worsening of the situation must be avoided at all costs,” the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said in its daily report.
Roughly two thirds of the new cases have been reported in just three German states: Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg in the south, and North-Rhine Westphalia in the west.
Eastern and northern regions of the country have been far less affected by the virus since the start of the outbreak.
The rate of reproduction, also known as the R number, has stayed above the level of one since mid-July, with the RKI saying this is due to a relaxation of the lockdown.
The disease control agency added that the rise in the R number could no longer only be pinned to localized outbreaks but reflected an overall increase in the country.
At the same time, the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care beds in Germany remains under one per cent of total capacity. Some 270 intensive care beds are occupied by virus patients, down from 3,000 in mid-April.
Government’s plan to ban ads for unhealthy food before 9pm will have limited impact, says IFS
The Government’s plan for a ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt before 9pm may only have a limited impact, the Institute of Fiscal studies has said.
“It is unlikely that extending advertising restrictions would lead to such a large reduction in the amount of advertising for unhealthy food and drinks that people actually see,” the group said. “This is because firms could increase their advertising of these products after the watershed or on other types of media.
“Research has shown that this happened before. Following the introduction of the 2007 ban on advertising food and drink products that are high in fat, sugar or salt during children’s television, restricted adverts were shifted from children’s television to unrestricted non-children’s television.”
Sainsbury’s to trial virtual queuing system for customers
Sainsbury’s is to trial a new virtual queuing system which will allow customers to wait their turn to enter stores from the comfort of their car, a nearby cafe or their home.
Customers will be able to join the line to shop in stores by using a smartphone app, eliminating the need to stand in a socially distanced line outside the store.
The retailer said it is starting the trial across five UK stores from Monday.
The system, which runs via the app ufirst, will be piloted at its stores in Uxbridge, Pimlico, Dome Roundabout in Watford, Leicester North and Newham Royal Wharf.
Sainsbury’s said the initiative, which will run until mid-August, will test whether the technology will help customers stay safe, save time and shop conveniently in stores.
Sainsbury’s said it is also expanding its SmartShop mobile payment scheme to offer till-free shopping in more than 100 convenience stores across the UK by the end of this week.
‘We will live with this for years’: virus expert on debilitating after-effects of Covid-19
One of the world’s foremost virus experts has said survivors will be living with the effects of Covid-19 for “years to come” after he was struck down by a severe infection, and called for added support for those who have recovered from the disease.
Professor Peter Piot, who as director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has been at the forefront of the academic response to the pandemic, has spent his entire career studying viruses such as Ebola and HIV.
Prof Piot spent a week at the Royal Free Hospital in London in early April after contracting the disease.
“I spent a week in isolation on a ward with three other men. I couldn’t leave the room. When I came out the thing I remember most is seeing the sky. London was deserted – it was in acute lockdown,” he said.
In case you missed it yesterday, Anne Gulland has more here.
Bonfire society pulls out of Lewes November 5 celebrations
A bonfire society has announced that it will not be taking part in the famous Lewes November 5 festivities this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cliffe Bonfire Society said on Sunday that it was a “difficult but, in the end, inevitable decision”.
It is one of only a handful of times in its 167-year history that it has been “druv” (driven) to the move in order to save lives, the others being the First and Second World Wars, the 1960 Lewes Flood and the typhoid outbreak in the town in 1874.
The East Sussex town is famous for burning effigies of controversial politicians and celebrities every year on Bonfire Night.
Effigies created by the seven bonfire societies that make up Lewes Bonfire Council are paraded along the narrow streets before being burned in front of thousands of onlookers.
The other six societies have not made any announcements about cancelling 2020 festivities.
Ryanair will not cancel flights to Spain despite return of quarantine
Ryanair is still planning to run a full schedule of flights to Spain despite the British Government’s decision to impose shock restrictions on all non-essential travel to the country.
The low-cost airline’s chief financial officer, Neil Sorahan, said today that the carrier had “no plans to cut capacity in the medium term” between the UK and Spain.
Follow all the latest on our travel live blog here.
Australia reports record number of cases
Australia has today posted its highest number of new Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, even as officials expressed hope outbreaks in locked-down Melbourne may have peaked.
A day after Australia reported its highest daily death toll, authorities confirmed at least 549 new coronavirus infections – almost entirely driven by an outbreak in the southeastern state of Victoria.
Authorities admitted a second wave of clusters in Melbourne was taking longer to suppress than hoped.
But the state’s top health official voiced optimism that a partial lockdown of 5 million people, now in its third week, was working.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said modelling showed “today should be the peak” even if the number of new cases continues to fluctuate and new daily records could yet be set.
Hong Kong orders mandatory mask wearing to combat surge
Everyone in Hong Kong will have to wear masks in public from this week, authorities said today, as they unveiled the city’s toughest social distancing measures yet to combat a new wave of coronavirus infections.
The ramped-up rules came as authorities revealed China would help officials build an emergency field hospital to help deal with a surge in patients.
“The epidemic situation in Hong Kong is remarkably severe,” Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung told reporters, as he announced new measures including a ban on more than two people gathering in public and restaurants only being allowed to serve takeaway meals.
The densely packed financial hub was one of the first places hit by the coronavirus when it emerged from China, but initially had success in controlling the outbreak.
Local infections have soared over the last month, however, with piecemeal social distancing measures appearing to do little to stem a rising caseload.
More than 1,000 infections have been confirmed since early July – more than 40 per cent of the total since the virus first hit the city in late January. New daily infections have also been above 100 for the last five days.
Airlines face crackdown over coronavirus refunds
Airline regulators are expected to this week launch a crackdown on carriers which have failed to refund families for flights cancelled due to coronavirus, as the industry reels from new restrictions over Spain.
The Civil Aviation Authority is understood to have drawn up a list of the worst culprits, with millions of customers still owed billions of pounds after being told they could not fly.
Enforcement action could end up with airlines being banned from operating in the UK.
Oliver Gill and Hasan Chowdhury have more here.
Boris Johnson says he was ‘too fat’ as he launches anti-obesity drive
Boris Johnson – who has previously been a prominent critic of state-backed measures to get people’s weight down – has claimed that the new “Better Health Strategy” would help people “not in an excessively bossy or nannying way”.
A video of the Prime Minister walking his dog has been posted to his Twitter account, where he opens up about his own struggles with weight as the Government launches a drive to get the nation’s weight down.
“I’ve always wanted to lose weight for ages and ages, and like, I think many people I struggle with my weight – I go up and down,” he said.
“But since I recovered from coronavirus I’ve been steadily building up my fitness. I don’t want to make any excessive claims because I’ve only really just started concentrating on it, but I’ve got – I’m at least a stone down. I’m more than a stone down.
“But when I went into ICU, when was really ill, I was very, I was way overweight. I’m only about five foot ten, you know, at the outside, and, you know, I was too fat.”
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Ryanair slumps to £168m loss after ‘most challenging’ quarter
Ryanair said it suffered its “most challenging” quarter as it slumped to a €185m (£168m) loss for the three months to June.
The low-cost carrier also warned that a second wave of coronavirus cases in Europe could prolong any recovery from the pandemic into next year.
Europe’s biggest airline swung into the red after it was forced to ground 99 per cent of its fleet due to Covid-19.
Restrictions saw the firm carry 500,000 passengers in its first quarter compared with 41.9 million in the same period last year, while revenue plummeted from £2.1bn to £113m.
Simon Foy has more here.
Watch: Tourists ‘left in the lurch’ over sudden Spain quarantine rule
Catalonia may take stricter measures to limit outbreak if situation does not improve
Spain’s Catalonia may take stricter measures to limit the coronavirus outbreak if the situation does not improve in the next ten days, regional leader Quim Torra said today.
Torra warned that in many parts of Catalonia the data was similar to the situation before Spain declared a national lockdown in March, PA news agency reports.
He added his administration’s goal was to avoid taking as strict measures as the ones that were taken back then.
Catalan authorities on July 17 advised some four million people to remain home and leave only for essential trips, banned gatherings of more than ten people and limited the occupancy of bars and restaurants as the number of cases in the region is rising faster than in the rest of the country.
Batwoman: ‘Trump owes us an apology’
The Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli, widely nicknamed ‘batwoman’, has been thrown into the limelight during the pandemic. She is a world leading expert on bat coronaviruses and works at the Wuhan Insitute of Virology (WIV), in the city where the pandemic first began.
Both Shi and the lab have been the subject of widespread conspiracy theories throughout the outbreak, with people including President Donald Trump pushing the idea that the virus accidentally escaped from the WIV – or was perhaps even engineered there.
But in an interview with Science Magazine Shi has finally broken her silence on the attacks against her and the details of her work. Here are a few of the key elements of the interview:
Shi said that Trump “owes us an apology” as his claims that the virus escaped from the lab contract the facts and jeopardises both the academic work and personal lives of researchers at the WIV.
She said the lab has isolated and grown only three bat coronavirus in the last 15 years, all of which related to Sars. Some 2,000 other bat coronaviruses held at the lab are simply genetic sequences that have been extracted from animal samples – they are not live viruses.
Shi said it is “absurd” that the US has suspended funding for EcoHealth Alliance to work in China (the Telegraph spoke to the organisation’s head, Peter Daszak, about this here).
Confusion reigns over quarantine decision for Spanish islands
Craig Cowgill, from Bury, said he may lose out on pay in his role as manager of a small business due to the Government’s decision to reimpose a blanket quarantine requirement for arrivals from Spain.
Mr Cowgill, who is due to fly to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands on Thursday, said he will “have to still come in or not get paid” upon his return to the UK.
“I don’t know what to do at this moment. I’m hoping Jet2 will offer a refund or the Government change the quarantine from the islands,” he told the PA news agency.
“I can understand about Spain, but they say it’s safe where we are going, so why quarantine us then? It’s either one or the other – (you) can’t send people, then ask them to quarantine and not offer refunds.”
Read more: Spain tourists describe quarantine announcement chaos
Death haunts abandoned shops of Nembro, Italy’s worst hit town
Europe became the epicentre of the global pandemic before the continent locked down. This week, for the first time, Telegraph reporters return to “ground zero” of some of the worst-hit countries to assess the damage.
As Italy and much of Europe reopens for business, towns like Nembro are struggling to find a new normal. For those businesses fortunate enough to be able to start again, the scars of what happened here are all too real.
“At least 10 of my regular customers who used to come in once a month are now dead because of the virus,” says Manuel, a barber in the centre cutting people’s hair wearing a face covering and a visor.
“It seems totally absurd to me that I won’t ever see those people again.”
Nembro is emblematic of the huge social and economic costs that Italy has paid as a result of the virus.
This is a place where at the height of the pandemic, people were “dropping like flies,” where the death rate shot up by 10 times, where three brothers died within just a few days of each other. Not since the Second World War have small Italian communities like these experienced such grief, shock and sadness.
Biagio Simonetta in Nembro and Nick Squires in Rome have the full report here.
Jamie Oliver welcomes Government’s obesity measures
TV chef Jamie Oliver, a longtime campaigner against child obesity, has celebrated the Government’s measures via Twitter.
Big love to all of you who have supported our campaign. Let’s keep up the momentum so we can offer all kids a healthier and better future! pic.twitter.com/mdq9ESa9Q3
— Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) July 27, 2020
Donald Trump disembarks Marine One without a face mask
Having been pictured publicly wearing a mask despite previously saying he wouldn’t be wearing one, Donald Trump was seen disembarking Marine One.
He wasn’t wearing a mask.
His daughter – Ivanka Trump – decided to wear one, and her husband Jared Kushner followed his father-in-law’s lead.
Air bridges ‘under review’, says minister
Health minister Helen Whately said so-called air bridges to other countries are constantly “under review” following the Government’s decision to reimpose a blanket quarantine for arrivals from Spain.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “What we said throughout the time when we’ve put in place the policy on the travel corridors, the air bridges, is that we would need to keep those under review, that we would need to monitor the rates in other countries.
“That is exactly what we’ve done in Spain, so we are enacting the policy that we committed to doing.
“The rate was going up very rapidly in Spain and we had to take very rapid, decisive action.
“If we hadn’t taken that decisive action, I imagine you would be asking me ‘Why are there delays, why haven’t we taken robust action?’
“We have taken decisive action.”
Istanbul’s Grand Mosque reopens for first time in 86 years
The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul was sprayed with disinfectant ahead of its reopening for prayer for the first time in almost a century.
And they flocked to the place of worship, as seen in the photograph below.
Outbreak at Shropshire caravan park confirmed after 21 test positive
Twenty-one new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed at a Shropshire caravan park.
The council fears the number of cases at the site, which is in the town of Craven Arms, will continue to rise before infection control measures start to take effect.
All residents who have come into contact with one of the positive cases have been asked to self-isolate with their households for 14 days.
The 21 people who tested positive for coronavirus were asked to self-isolate for at least seven days from the time they started showing symptoms or from when they received their positive test result.
A testing centre has now been set up on a nearby business park, and everyone living on the site has been offered a test.
The centre will be open for the next two weeks between 10.30am and 3.30pm and those living nearby can book a test online via NHS Test and Trace or by ringing 119.
A playground close to the caravan park has also been closed to help reduce social contact and the risk of transmission.
‘Smarter measures’ at border rather than blanket quarantine, Labour urge
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has urged the Government to introduce “smarter measures” at the border rather than a blanket quarantine for those returning from Spain.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “We certainly would be following the advice and introducing protective measures at the border if there are spikes in cases in other countries, absolutely.
“But there are two serious questions around this. The first is why we are still employing the… blunt tool of the 14-day quarantining rather than smarter measures and secondly the chaotic nature of the decision-making which certainly hasn’t bred confidence in the Government’s approach.”
He added: “I think you need a smarter set of quarantine measures at the airport. I’ve suggested this test, trace and isolate regime but you can also have temperature checking and other things – you look at a range of measures.”
Fears more European holidays could be thrown into disarray
There are fears more European holidays could be thrown into disarray during “uncertainty” this summer after holidaymakers in Spain were left fuming at being told they must quarantine when they return home.
The Government has stood by its decision to strike Spain off the UK’s list of safe destinations after it saw a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government “can’t make apologies” for the decision made on Saturday – announced less than five hours before coming into force – that arrivals from Spain and its islands would have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Mr Raab, speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, also refused to rule out rescinding further so-called travel corridors.
“As we’ve found with Spain, we can’t give a guarantee,” he said, before adding that there was “an element of uncertainty this summer if people go abroad”.
The Telegraph reported that officials in both France and Germany have warned of possible new lockdowns as parts of Europe braced for a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
‘Don’t be blase’, says Scottish pilot who was Vietnam’s most critically-ill Covid patient
A Scottish pilot who was Vietnam’s most critically ill Covid-19 patient has warned others not to be “blase” about the risks of the virus.
Stephen Cameron was working for national carrier Vietnam Airlines when he tested positive for the coronavirus in March and went on to become seriously ill, spending 65 days on life support.
The 42-year-old, who became something of a media sensation in Vietnam as one of the country’s earliest and most critically ill patients, said the response of the country had been “mind-blowing”.
Speaking to BBC News, Mr Cameron, from Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, said the effects of Covid-19 should not be under-estimated.
He added: “I’m a living example of what this virus can do and it is serious.
“People might grumble about having to put on gloves or social distancing two metres apart … but I contracted it and I was under for 10 weeks on life support.
“People can’t be blase about this until we have eradicated it.”
Today’s front page
Here is your Daily Telegraph on Monday, July 27.
Transparent cubicles get pupils back to kindergarten in Indonesia
As schools struggle to keep pupils engaged during the pandemic, a kindergarten on Indonesia’s Java island is getting pupils back in the classroom using makeshift transparent cubicles and also sending teachers on home visits with social distancing barriers.
Permata Hati Kindergarten, a private kindergarten with 135 pupils in the city of Semarang in Central Java province, is allowing six pupils per day to spend time in the classroom, giving children a chance to attend school once every two weeks.
Central Java has recorded Indonesia’s fourth highest number of infections and at least 287 people have died in Semarang alone, according to government data.
Accompanied by parents, the children sit within protective boxes made using plastic sheets that are disinfected after each classroom session to get guidance to direct their learning.
Read more: Teachers’ unions call for compulsory face masks for schoolchildren
Vietnam evacuating 80,000 tourists
Vietnam is evacuating 80,000 people, mostly local tourists, from the central city of Danang after three residents tested positive at the weekend, the government said on Monday.
The evacuation will take at least four days with domestic airlines operating approximately 100 flights daily from Danang to 11 Vietnamese cities, the government said in a statement.
The Southeast Asian country was back on high alert after the government on Saturday confirmed its first community infections since April, and another three cases on Sunday, all in the tourism hot spot of Danang.
Hong Kong to announce new restrictions
Hong Kong on Monday will announce further restrictions to curb the surge in cases, including a total ban on restaurant dining and mandated face masks outdoors, media reported.
The new rules will take effect from Wednesday, local television channels Cable TV and Now TV said, as authorities warned it was a critical period to contain the virus.
This will be the first time the city has completely banned dining in restaurants. Since late January, more than 2,600 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 19 of whom have died.
Comment: We are taking action to get nation’s health back on track
Obesity is one of the greatest long term health challenges that we face as a country.
It not only puts a strain on our NHS and care system, but it also piles pressure on our bodies, making us more vulnerable to many diseases, including of course coronavirus.
The latest research shows that if you have a BMI of between 30 and 35 your risk of death from coronavirus goes up by at least a quarter.
And that nearly 8 per cent of critically ill patients with coronavirus in intensive care are morbidly obese compared at around 3 per cent of the country as a whole.
This deadly virus has given us a wake-up call about the need to tackle the stark inequalities in our nation’s health, and obesity is an urgent example of this.
We’ve already done lots of work on this front, like cutting sugar in soft drinks and giving extra support for the NHS work on diabetes.
But we know that we need to go further.
On Monday, we have publish a new strategy setting out clearly how we will tackle obesity in England.
Read Matt Hancock’s full comment piece
Read more: Lose 5lb and save the NHS £100m
South Korea confirms 25 new cases
South Korea has reported 25 newly confirmed cases , bringing its national caseload to 14,175 infections and 299 deaths.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday said 16 of the new cases were tied to people arriving from abroad. The country in past days have reported dozens of cases among crew members of a Russia-flagged cargo ship docked in the southern port of Busan and hundreds of South Korean construction workers airlifted from virus-ravaged Iraq.
Among the nine local transmissions, eight were from the Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May.
Fears of new wave after infections rise in China
China recorded 61 new cases on Monday – the highest daily figure since April – propelled by clusters in three separate regions that have sparked fears of a fresh wave.
The bulk of 57 new domestic cases were found in the far northwestern Xinjiang region, according to the National Health Commission, where a sudden outbreak in the regional capital of Urumqi occurred in mid-July.
Fourteen domestic cases were also recorded in the northeastern province of Liaoning where a fresh cluster broke out in the city of Dalian last week.
Two more local cases were found in the neighbouring province of Jilin near the North Korean border – the first since late May.
The last four infections confirmed on Monday were imported from overseas.
It is the highest daily tally of new virus cases since April 14, when 89 cases, mostly imported, were recorded.
Read the full story
Summary of news from around the world
Vietnam has postponed its hosting of Asia’s largest security forum, which includes North Korea, and an annual meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers by a month to September due to the pandemic.
Pope Francis led pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly Sunday blessing in a round of applause for elderly people suffering from loneliness during the pandemic.
Health authorities in North Macedonia reported that confirmed cases surged above 10,000, meaning that almost 0.5 percent of the population of 2.1 million have been infected.
Serbia has reported a record number of daily cases after 467 people tested positive.
A popular resort town in Austria has ordered restaurants and clubs to close early and urged people to avoid going out as it grapples with a new outbreak.
A Pakistani health official is warning that the curve that flattened last month could spike again if people violate social distancing regulations during the upcoming Eid al-Adha festival.
South Africa has announced more than 12,000 new cases as the total in one of the world’s worst affected countries reaches 434,200 with 6,655 deaths.
Vietnam on Sunday reimposed restrictions in one of its most popular beach destinations after a second person tested positive.
China reported 46 new cases on Sunday, the highest daily tally in more than a month.
Mexico‘s Health Ministry on Sunday reported 5,480 new confirmed cases and 306 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 390,516 cases and 43,680 deaths.
Australian state reports record number of daily cases
Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria reported on Monday six new deaths and logged a record daily increase of 532 new cases compared with 459 a day earlier.
“Five of those six deaths are connected to outbreaks in aged care,” state Premier Daniel Andrews said in a media briefing in Melbourne.
Victoria on Sunday suffered its deadliest day since the pandemic began after reporting 10 deaths, mostly at aged-care facilities.
The state recorded its previous one-day high of 484 cases last week.
US records more than 55,000 cases in 24 hours
The United States on Sunday recorded 55,187 new cases in 24 hours, Johns Hopkins University reported in its real-time tally.
The world’s hardest-hit country now has a total caseload of 4,229,624, the Baltimore-based university showed at 8:30 pm (0030 GMT Monday).
An additional 518 deaths brought the overall death toll to 146,909.
The last time the daily number of new cases clocked in below 60,000 was almost two weeks ago, on July 13.
Scientists agree that an increase in death rates follows the spike in infections by three to four weeks.
The daily death toll for the past four days exceeded 1,000.
UK’s quarantine threatens to wipe out Benidorm tourist industry
In Benidorm, where Spanish tourism was born when tourists were first allowed to wear bikinis in the 1950s, Britain’s quarantine decision was seen as a “hammer blow” by hoteliers.
The Costa Blanca town, which transformed itself from a fishing village to a byword for mass tourism, depends on the UK for 40 per cent of its holidaymakers.
Its mayor, Toni Perez, reacted to the surprise quarantine announcement by saying: “We very much regret it. In Benidorm, we’ve worked a lot to minimise the risks and we haven’t got any problems here at the moment.
“It’s a very safe destination, with beaches which are very well organised and businesses which have established protocols and are applying them. The problem in Spain is in certain areas, but in the end this decision affects us all and especially resorts like ours whose main market is British.”
Read the full story