France among six nations placed on UK travel quarantine list as cases rise
France is among six countries that have been struck off the Government’s quarantine free travel destination list after another record high in post-lockdown cases in the country.
Up to 400,000 Britons are currently on holiday in France and they now face a last-minute dash to return home before the new restrictions come into force on Saturday at 4am.
Britain’s second favourite holiday destination was removed from the UK’s “travel corridor” list tonight as the French health ministry reported 2,699 infections in 24 hours.
Whilst on Thursday morning, it was thought France had done “enough” to retain its status, it has now been taken off the quarantine-free list alongside the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks and Caicos, and Aruba.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier today that the Government would be “absolutely ruthless” about imposing the measures, even with “our closest and dearest partners”.
Follow the latest coronavirus updates below.
What happened today: France quarantine changes and new contact tracing app
Good evening. Here’s a roundup of the biggest coronavirus developments today – we will be back tomorrow with all the latest global health news.
A Level Results: Teachers accused of submitting ‘implausibly high’ predicted grades as results row grows
The exam regulator has accused teachers of submitting “implausibly high” predicted grades amid a growing fall-out over A-level results day.
On Thursday, official data revealed that close to 40 per cent of results were downgraded from teachers’ predictions, prompting students to complain that they had been let down by the system.
But the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) said that, while the vast majority of teachers had submitted accurate estimates to exam boards, some had put forward wildly inflated grades.
“Because the circumstances meant there was no opportunity to develop a common approach to grading, the standard applied by different schools and colleges varies greatly,” a spokesman for the regulator said.
“A rare few centres put in implausibly high judgments, including one which submitted all A* and A grades for students in two subjects, where previously there had been normal distribution.”
The intervention came amid a growing row on A-level results day, with pupils and schools complaining that they had been unreasonably punished by the statistical mechanism used to calculate grades.
Read more here from Camilla Turner, Anna Mikhailova and Catherine Neilan.
France quarantine rules in full
The updated Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidance about travel to France is as follows:
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to France (including Corsica).
This is based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks. Check separate travel advice pages for overseas territories of France.
The FCO is not advising those already travelling in France to leave at this time.
You should follow the advice of the local authorities on how best to protect yourself and others, including any measures that they bring in to control the virus. Contact your travel operator if you have any questions about your return journey.
If you are returning to the UK from France on or after 15 August, you may need to self-isolate on your return. Check the latest guidance for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The guidance includes information on the rules if you’re transiting through France from another country to reach the UK.
Travel to France is subject to entry restrictions: Although there is no restriction on travel from the UK and most European countries, travel from most non-European countries is subject to entry restrictions.
Returning from France to UK? You might not be able to get back, Channel Tunnel operator warns
Channel Tunnel operator Getlink said additional services may be laid on but warned that many passengers may not be able to get back to the UK.
John Keefe, Getlink’s director of public affairs, told BBC’s Newsnight the trains were “already pretty much fully booked” on Friday.
“We just haven’t got the space to take everybody who might suddenly want to come up to the coast. So what we are saying to people is amend your booking online, make sure there’s space before you travel to the terminal.”
He said there was “some possibility of adding additional trains in the off-peak periods”, but those wanting to travel must check availability online before heading to the terminal.
“The important thing is that people understand that it’s not going to be easy to get back and they have to be sensible about this and not get themselves into difficulties,” he said.
The French were expected to impose reciprocal quarantine arrangements following the UK’s move, Mr Keefe added.
France quarantine list announcement: What does it mean for travel to France?
France has been removed from the list of safe countries people can travel to without going into quarantine following fears it could be experiencing a second wave of Covid-19.
This means that, after the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ announcement, Britons returning from the European country will have to isolate for two weeks from 4am on Saturday.
The Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos and the island of Aruba have also been added to the quarantine list.
This is what it means for travel to France:
The measure comes into force from 4am on Saturday, August 15, meaning that travellers who are returning to the UK from any of the six destinations have just over 24 hours to avoid a fortnight of quarantine.
The new rules apply to everyone returning to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
People currently on holiday in the countries in question are not advised to leave immediately by the Foreign Office – instead, they are asked to follow local rules and check the Government website for further details.
The FCO has now advised British nationals against “all but essential travel” to the the countries on the quarantine list. Those who go on holiday regardless after August 15 will have to isolate for two weeks on return.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said travel insurance will remain valid for people who are already in the quarantined countries until they return home.
However, if someone were to travel to any of the listed countries once the new measures are in place, it is “likely” that existing insurance will be invalid after 4am on Saturday.
The Foreign Secretary has said that no worker who follows self-isolation guidance should be punished by their employer, and this includes being put onto sick pay.
Brexit news: Trade deal can be done by September, says UK chief negotiator
The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator said on Thursday that a free trade agreement with the European Union could be agreed in September, as Ireland’s prime minister said a “landing zone” for the deal had emerged.
British and EU officials meet in Brussels for the seventh round of trade talks next week after a fortnight break following five weeks of intensified negotiations.
David Frost said: “Our assessment is that agreement can be reached in September, and we will work to achieve this if we can.”
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has set an end of October deadline for the trade deal to be finalised, which is supported by influential member states such as Germany.
Ireland’s Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, met Boris Johnson for talks on Thursday in Hillsborough, Northern Ireland. He said both sides knew that they needed to avoid the economic shock of a no trade deal Brexit after the coronavirus crisis.
James Crisp has the full story.
Boris Johnson to stamp major Scotland projects funded by UK Government with Union flag
Boris Johnson will stamp major schemes in Scotland that are paid for directly by the UK Government with a Union flag from next year, The Telegraph can reveal.
The flag will replace the European Union symbol, which has been used to denote when a bridge or road has been directly funded by Brussels.
The idea has been backed by the new Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, who said Tories north of the border needed to be “unashamed of our investment in Scotland”.
But it was greeted with dismay by senior SNP politicians, with one accusing Mr Johnson’s Government of “posturing of the worst order” and “trying to force the union flag down people’s throats”.
The Union flag will be used to highlight when UK central Government money has been spent in Scotland. It will not apply to Scottish government spending, even though a proportion of that derives from an annual block grant from London.
Mr Ross said he wanted to show the “visual connection” between UK Government money and schemes in Scotland.
Read the full exclusive from our chief political correspondent Christopher Hope here.
Travel insurance and Covid-19: Everything you need to know about coronavirus insurance cover
Travel insurance has never been more important. The global lockdown left millions of holiday plans in tatters, while ongoing uncertainty about the virus, along with the prospect of having your destination removed from the UK quarantine-free list, remain major issues.
In the spring, in the face of rising cancellations, many firms took the decision to stop selling travel insurance. According to consumer guide Which?, almost half of the UK’s major insurers had removed their travel policies from sale by April.
Now travel is back, holidaymakers need to be protected should Covid-19 interrupt our overseas trips – especially with the new restrictions that have just been announced by the Government.
Unfortunately, some insurance providers are still struggling to formulate policies that address all the risks associated with the crisis.
But The Telegraph’s content editor Ben Parker is at hand to provide all you need to know about travel insurance and Covid-19.
Reaction coming in as France and Netherlands added to UK quarantine list
Patrick Ikhena, head of travel at comparethemarket.com, said: “Today’s announcement will likely impact the holiday plans of people who considered France, Malta and the Netherlands to be less risky destinations for a summer getaway.
“Those who still plan to travel despite the requirements to quarantine upon return should contact their insurer to explore their options and ascertain their level of cover.
“Generally speaking, if the FCO has not explicitly stated that you shouldn’t travel to these regions, but you decide not to travel due to quarantine requirements, this will be deemed ‘disinclination to travel’ and you are unlikely to be covered by your policy.
“Many providers have begun to offer ‘enhanced Covid-cover’ to give passengers additional cover and peace of mind before travelling abroad.
“Whilst these policies are unlikely to cover you or your travel companions if you travel to a region against FCO advice, this type of cover is likely to pay out for any costs or lost funds should you contract Covid-19 before travelling.”
Boris Johnson eases UK coronavirus lockdown and gives a green light for social events
Boris Johnson has taken the brakes off the easing of lockdown as he announced that plans for wedding receptions, sporting events and indoor performances will resume, Anna Mikhailova reports.
The Prime Minister said the changes will allow people to “get back to more of the things they have missed” since the health crisis began after rising infection rates appeared to have “levelled off”.
However Mr Johnson also introduced tougher penalties for repeatedly failing to wear face masks in public places.
Fines will double each time someone is found in breach of the rules, up until a maximum of £3,200. Hairdressers will also now be required to wear surgical face masks.
Mr Johnson also announced that people hosting an illegal rave or gathering of more than 30 people will now be issued spot fines. Government sources on Wednesday night said this could be up to £10,000.
Last weekend, West Midlands Police shut down 125 parties and raves, and closed a pub, to stop illegal gatherings and anti-social behaviour.
Face coverings are mandatory for most people in shops and supermarkets and on public transport. The rules also cover buying takeaways in cafes and shops.
From last week they have also been required in museums, galleries, and places of worship. Anyone failing to wear a face covering while shopping has been subject to a fine of up to £100, or £50 if paid within 14 days.
All the measures that were put on hold two weeks ago by the Prime Minister will now be reinstated from this Saturday.
Mr Johnson had postponed the changes, which were meant to come in on August 1, amid concerns over a second wave of coronavirus. At the time, the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the country had “probably reached near the limit or the limits” of what can be done to reopen society.
Wedding receptions of up to 30 people will now be allowed from Saturday, as will the reopening of casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks. Beauty salons, tattoo studios and spas can offer close “services and treatments”.
President Trump hits back after Biden and Harris coronavirus criticism
The latest from our US editor Ben Riley-Smith:
Trump punching right back on coronavirus after Biden/Harris attacks, criticising Biden for not backing his travel ban from China + Europe and questioning legality of 3-month mask mandate Biden just called for.
— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) August 13, 2020
Socially distanced indoor performances to resume in England
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead to delayed plans to resume socially-distanced indoor performances in England.
The Government had previously given the green light for performance spaces to welcome back audiences last month, however the move was delayed amid a rise in the prevalence of coronavirus in the community.
Indoor performances will now be able to take place from Saturday, with exceptions including areas such as Manchester and Leicester where local lockdown measures have been implemented.
The move was announced alongside plans to relax rules on businesses including bowling alleys, skating rinks, casinos, beauty salons and tattoo studios.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
The nation’s hard work to keep the virus under control means we can now make further careful progress on recovery with allowing audiences back for indoor performances, fans back at sports events and the reopening of more Covid-19 secure leisure businesses.
We must all continue to stay alert but today’s welcome news means these organisations can finally get going safely, and we can enjoy more of the things we love as a nation.
I have no doubt that they will work incredibly hard to keep their fans, patrons and customers safe.
The move sees the Government advance to stage four of their plan for the phased return of live shows, which allows for performances both indoors and outdoors with a limited capacity audience.
Stage five, which is the final step of the plan, would see performances allowed both indoors and outdoors with fuller crowds.
France quarantine list announcement: The thinking behind the Government’s decision
The decision to add France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos and Aruba to the quarantine list comes after the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England both indicated that there had been a significant increase in the risk of Covid-19 transmission across all six destinations.
Data from France shows that over the past week there has been a 66 per cent increase in newly reported cases and a 52 per cent increase in weekly incidence rate per 100,000 population, Department for Transport officials said.
There has been a consistent increase in newly reported cases in the Netherlands over the past four weeks, with a 52 per cent increase in newly reported cases between August 7 and 13.
Over the past week, there has been a 273 per cent increase in newly reported cases in Turks & Caicos and a 1,106 per cent increase in newly reported cases in Aruba, while Malta has had a 105 per cent increase in newly reported cases over the past week.
New face mask rules to come into force with fines of up to £3,200
Fines for repeatedly refusing to wear a mask could soar to £3,200 and organisers of illegal raves could face a £10,000 penalty, Boris Johnson announced ahead of further easing of England’s lockdown.
At present, people who refuse to wear a face covering where it is required face a £100 fine, which can be reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days.
That penalty will double for subsequent offences under the new measures, up to a maximum fine of £3,200.
In England face coverings are mandatory in settings including public transport, shops and museums – with some exemptions for children, or on medical grounds.
A clampdown on illegal gatherings of more than 30 people could see those responsible hit with spot fines of up to £10,000. Police bosses have promised increased patrols to prevent unlicensed events following a spate of parties during the heatwave.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis warned ‘uncertainty’ over France quarantine would be ‘devastating’
The former Brexit secretary David Davis warned earlier today that “uncertainty” around France’s future would be “devastating for the travel industry”.
He said: “If you are a factory worker and you’re told that your holiday is likely to require one month out of work, then you have to worry about hanging on to your job and your wages. It fuels cancellations and stalls bookings for a sector that is already struggling.”
Mr Davis urged the Government to “rethink” its border policy and asked ministers to listen to the requests of the travel industry, saying: “I don’t think the Government is doing as much as it can about testing. We ought to have testing at the airport or even before return, which is something the industry has been asking for.
“A more nuanced approach to regional areas affected would also be welcome. It looks as though this has been run on message and simplicity rather than policy, and that’s very bad news.”
A separate senior backbencher suggested that “diplomacy” around the ongoing Channel migrants situation could be behind the delay in an announcement.
Breaking: France placed on UK travel quarantine list as coronavirus cases rise again
France has been struck from the Government’s quarantine free travel list, amid rising concern over new cases in the country.
Up to 400,000 Britons are currently on holiday in France and now face a last-minute dash to return home before the restrictions come into force on Saturday at 4am.
Britain’s second favourite holiday destination was removed from the UK’s “travel corridor” list on Thursday night as new coronavirus cases hit a post-lockdown daily high with the French health ministry reporting 2,699 infections in 24 hours.
On Thursday morning, it was thought France had done “enough” to retain its status, with Government sources indicating that new restrictions would not be imposed.
Mr Johnson earlier said the Government would be “absolutely ruthless” about imposing the measures, even with “our closest and dearest partners”.
Speaking during a visit to Northern Ireland, he said: “We can’t be remotely complacent about our own situation. Everybody understands that in a pandemic you don’t allow our population to be reinfected or the disease to come back in.
“That is why the quarantine measures are very important, and we have to apply them in a very strict way.”
Amy Jones has more on this breaking news story here.
Oldham lockdown looms as coronavirus cases surge
Oldham is on the verge of being placed into a full coronavirus lockdown tonight as the Government considered shutting bars, restaurants and gyms in the Greater Manchester borough.
The Government has been consulting the local council about potential new restrictions, and an announcement is expected tomorrow about whether to implement further measures.
Amy Jones has the full story.
Andrew Lloyd-Webber volunteers for Covid-19 vaccine in the hope of faster theatre reopenings
Lord Lloyd-Webber has signed up as a volunteer for the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial to expedite the reopening of theatres.
The composer said he will receive a dose of the experimental drug on Thursday as part of his crusade for live performances to resume.
“I am excited that tomorrow I am going to be vaccinated for the Oxford Covid-19 trial” he tweeted last night.
“I’ll do anything to prove that theatres can reopen safely – ALW.”
Lord Lloyd-Webber has been an outspoken critic of the Government’s closure of live music venues during the lockdown, and its response to the arts industry.
Katie O’Neill has the full story.
Elephant sanctuaries and Thailand holidays industry face Covid crisis
“There are no tourists in Thailand, which elephant tourism relies on to feed elephants at camps and sanctuaries. A high percentage of the elephants are going hungry, many are chained most of the day, with some camps on the verge of closure,” said Louise Rogerson, the Project Director at Tree Tops Elephant Reserve in Phuket.
On a regular day, Tree Tops would welcome about 40 visitors a day, each spending £70 to enjoy a hands-off ethically-led experience with elephants rescued from riding camps and the illegal logging industry. But with Thailand’s borders closed since 25 March and the tourist tap turned off, funds have dried up.
“It is very worrying for us here at Tree Tops with seven elephants to feed and mahout salaries to pay. We need 200,000 (£5000) just to feed our seven elephants each month,” says Rogerson. Veterinary costs would come on top of that.
Lee Cobaj has the full story.
UK coronavirus cases: ‘Technical difficulties’ means new cases update unlikely today
Owing to technical difficulties with data processing, the England and UK cases and tests data is not expected to be updated today.
The #COVID19 data dashboard is available here: https://t.co/XhspoyTG79
— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) August 13, 2020
France coronavirus cases rise by 2,669
France has confirmed that its coronavirus cases have risen by 2,669, which represents the second daily post-lockdown high in a row amid concerns that the country is struggling to contain the disease following the relaxation of restrictions.
A further 17 deaths have also been recorded in France, taking the country’s total death toll to 30,388. The number of people in ICU units has fallen by five in the last 24 hours, with the number of people in hospital down by 27.
The first drugs specifically designed to fight Covid-19 are nearing their launch
Scientists are awaiting the results of the first drugs specifically designed to target Covid-19 and are quietly optimistic that the data, set to be revealed next month, will herald a major breakthrough, Sarah Newey reports.
If confirmed as safe and effective the drugs, known as monoclonal antibodies, could have a dramatic impact on efforts to halt the pandemic and reduce the death toll, say experts.
Monoclonal antibodies are already used to treat conditions including cancer, arthritis and Ebola. They are laboratory produced antibodies specific to the disease in question and delivered via injection. But there’s a major drawback: they are expensive to manufacture and distribute.
For Covid-19, scientists hope the treatment will prevent the virus from reproducing inside human cells and could be used in the early stages of disease, to prevent an infection from worsening and turning Covid-19 into something akin to a bad cold.
This contrasts to the two drugs so far proven effective against Covid-19, the antiviral remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone, which can only be used to treat severely ill patients.
The first trial results for monoclonal antibody therapies are expected to be published next month, but already experts are optimistic.
Read the full story here.
India coronavirus outbreak now the fastest growing in the world as developing countries bear the brunt
India’s Covid-19 outbreak has become the fourth deadliest on the planet and is also the fastest growing, as developing countries now bear the brunt of the pandemic, Ben Farmer and Joe Wallen report from Delhi.
The death toll from the new coronavirus in the world’s second most populous country rose 942 according to the latest daily count, overtaking the UK with a total of 47,033 fatalities.
The nation of 1.3bn people lags only behind the US, Brazil and Mexico in the overall number of deaths and its total number of confirmed cases, almost 2.4 million, is the third largest in the world.
India’s outbreak is also the fastest growing in the world, with the country reporting a succession of record daily case tallies and now recording around 60,000 or more new infections each day. The country has added its second million cases in only three weeks and is expected to surpass Brazil and America in both caseload and deaths by the Autumn.
Developing and middle income countries now dominate the rankings of countries hardest hit by the virus since it emerged at the end of last year.
Major epicentres in Latin America and parts of Asia and Africa have surpassed former hotspots such as the UK, Italy and Spain, as a worldwide total of 20 million have been infected and almost 750,000 have died.
Read Ben and Joe’s full dispatch here.
Israel UAE relations normalised in historic deal
Donald Trump, the US president, said on Thursday that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.
The announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state to do so and only the third Arab nation to have active diplomatic ties to Israel.
Trump tweeted a statement from the countries, acknowledging the deal. He then told reporters in the Oval Office that it was “a truly historic moment.”
“Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates,” he said.
The recognition grants a diplomatic win to Trump ahead of the November election. His efforts to see an end to the war in Afghanistan have yet to come to fruition, while efforts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians have made no headway.
Covid-19 ‘wrecking ball’ taken to NHS waiting times, surgeons say
Newly released NHS England waiting times figures show that a ‘wrecking ball’ has been taken to targets for timely treatment, leading surgeons have said.
Record number of patients are now waiting 18 weeks for NHS treatment, new figures showed earlier, with urgent cancer referrals also down.
Nearly half of 3.86 million people on the waiting list for NHS treatment have now waited more than 18 weeks for their treatment, which the Royal College of Surgeons of England said represents the worst breach of legal waiting times standards since records began in 2007.
“Covid-19 has taken a wrecking ball to waiting time targets,” said Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
“By law, 92 per cent of patients are supposed to be seen within 18 weeks, but today’s figures show the worst ever performance on record, with only half of patients getting treatment within this legal time-frame.
“In June most planned surgery was suspended while the country rallied to flatten the first peak of coronavirus, so these record waits are understandable. Nevertheless, each of these numbers represents another patient waiting in need, potentially in pain, for hospital treatment
“Long waits have a knock-on effect on patients’ families, their jobs and the wider economy. It is a real crisis.”
The College has called for medical staff to be tested up to twice a week and patients to be tested before, during and after hospital admission, and referred to new test and trace plans as “critical”.
Russia Covid-19 vaccine human trials: WHO adviser ‘does not have sufficient information’ to judge
World Health Organisation senior adviser Bruce Aylward, a Canadian physician-epidemiologist who was appointed co-lead of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus, has said that he does not have sufficient information to make a judgement on the expanded use of the Russian vaccine.
It comes as Philippines will begin large-scale human testing of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine in October, our South Asia correspondent Ben Farmer reports.
A spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte said the leader will receive a jab when regulators can guarantee it is safe.
Moscow’s declaration this week that it had developed the world’s first vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus has been met with some concern, but President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday attested to his faith in the potential vaccine by saying that it had been tested on one of his daughters.
Travel insurance and coronavirus: Everything you need to know about ‘Covid cover’
Travel insurance has never been more important. The global lockdown left millions of holiday plans in tatters, while ongoing uncertainty about the virus, along with the prospect of having your destination removed from the UK quarantine-free list, remain major issues.
In the spring, in the face of rising cancellations, many firms took the decision to stop selling travel insurance. According to consumer guide Which?, almost half of the UK’s major insurers had removed their travel policies from sale by April.
Now travel is back, holidaymakers need to be protected should Covid-19 interrupt our overseas trips. Unfortunately, insurance providers are still in struggling to formulate policies that address all the risks associated with the crisis.
Tui, the UK’s largest tour operator, recently announced that all its British customers will receive free coronavirus insurance, which will be automatically added to new and existing bookings. But there remains a lack of clarity, with many unsure about whether to plan that long-awaited trip.
Benjamin Parker has answered some of the important questions around travel insurance and ‘Covid cover’.
Micheál Martin: ‘Boris Johnson and I believe we will be living with Covid right through 2021’
Micheál Martin has said that he and Boris Johnson agree that people will be living with coronavirus restrictions “right through 2021”.
He added that the two leaders also discussed the travel restrictions currently necessitated by Covid-19.
At present, people travelling into the Republic of Ireland from Great Britain need to self-isolate for 14 days. The UK does not apply the same restrictions on travellers from Ireland.
Mr Martin said the Prime Minister had raised the prospect of the UK introducing further travel restrictions in response to outbreaks in other countries, describing it as a “moving narrative”.
He said: “He was outlining initiatives they will have to take in some aspects of travel related to other countries potentially.
“So this is a moving narrative because of the rise in cases in different countries at different times. So I think it was mutual understanding of where we are both coming from here. And, if you like, a shared concern about the continuing impact of Covid.
“We spoke about 2021, where will Covid be and I think we both share the view that we will, to all intents and purposes, be living with Covid right through 2021.”
Countries should stockpile PPE on a ‘war footing’, says face mask inventor
Governments should stockpile protective medical equipment to prepare for possible pandemics in the same way that they prioritise weapons purchases for potential future conflicts, says the inventor of the lifesaving N95 face mask.
Dr Peter Tsai, 68, recommended the war-like footing after suddenly being pulled out of his short-lived retirement earlier this year as US healthcare workers rapidly ran out of the vital protective gear at the start of the pandemic.
As the materials scientist who first patented the filtration material used in disposable N95 respirators in 1995, he found himself inundated with urgent requests to find ways to safely sterilise the equipment for re-use to help counter a critical global shortage.
Dr Tsai, who is originally from Taiwan and now lives in Tennessee, immediately sprang into action.
“If we have the ability to do something then I would regret it if there was something I could do and did not do to save lives. This was an opportunity for me to do something for the community,” he told the Telegraph in an interview.
Our Asia correspondent Nicola Smith has the full story.
House prices: Soaring property market won’t last as estate agents warn of ‘boom followed by bust’
House price growth will falter as Government support is withdrawn, estate agents have warned, with some forecasting a “boom followed by a bust”, reports our property editor Isabelle Fraser.
A poll of members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a trade body, found that new buyer inquiries, instructions to sell properties and agreed sales all rose sharply in July.
Those surveyed agreed that the stamp duty holiday had played a big role in lifting demand and adding momentum to the market.
While they were optimistic about the level of sales and house price growth over the next three months, the outlook for a year’s time was negative.
By this time, the furlough scheme will have been unwound and the stamp duty holiday will have ended.
Scotland train crash: Stonehaven train derailment investigation continues as tributes paid to rail staff
Tributes have been paid to the driver and conductor of a ScotRail train who were killed when it derailed in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire on Wednesday.
Brett McCullough, 45, and Donald Dinnie died when a landslip forced the train from its tracks, causing the locomotive and carriages to slide down an embankment. A passenger on the train was also killed.
A full investigation will establish exactly why the train left the tracks and why the service was allowed to run despite torrential rain in the area.
Other nearby services were cancelled on Wednesday morning due to safety concerns.
On Thursday, Network Rail announced that it will carry out “supplementary specialist inspections” of “higher risk” trackside slopes with similar characteristics to the site of the Aberdeenshire derailment (see video below).
Tony Diver has the story.
Test and trace NHS app: Experts react to new Department for Health announcement
Dr Thomas House, reader in Mathematical Statistics at the University of Manchester, said:
It is excellent news that the Track and Trace app is entering a trial phase. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether this is informed by the latest scientific understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For example, the Alan Turing Institute blog released on 13 August refers its estimates for infectious risk for risk scoring to an unreviewed pre-print dated 25 May, which refers to estimates in a model first posted online on 31 March, which refers to studies based on Chinese data from early February.
Therefore, we are left to conclude that the UK’s national Track and Trace app is, in mid-August, being developed using epidemiological parameters estimated for a different country and from six months ago.
Professor Christophe Fraser, scientific advisor to the NHSx and Department of Health & Social Care, & Department of Medicine, University of Oxford Nuffield, described comprehensive contact tracing as a “critical tool” in order to “help retain control of the Covid-19 epidemic and to avoid repeated lockdowns.”
Tracing needs to find contacts quickly because coronavirus spreads before symptoms occur. The more communities download the app, the more loved ones, colleagues and people we don’t know or remember we’ve been close to can be rapidly notified of a high risk encounter.
We’ve analysed from as little as 15-20 per cent of the population using the app there will be a reduction in cases, hospitalisations and deaths. The app will enable us to return to more active daily lives with the reassurance that we can anonymously alert our network and help avoid a second wave.”
Flights to Barbados from UK to resume all year round via British Airways
Barbados will again be serviced by British Airways from London Heathrow with a year-round direct daily service commencing October 17, 2020.
The news follows a hiatus of more than 15 years, and the announcement was made by Senator the Hon. Lisa Cummins, the country’s Minister for Tourism and International Transport:
For more than 15 years, Barbados has been engaging British Airways on the re-establishment of London Heathrow as the gateway to Barbados, following the retirement of its Concorde service. We are thrilled therefore to see this finally come to fruition as it opens the door for us, quite literally, for growth opportunities in cities and continents that were once out of our reach.
Post-COVID-19, with British Airways seeing the contraction of various routes, the opportunity presented itself for this service and we were determined to secure it. Understanding the challenges currently faced by our industry, it is critical for us to be both smart and aggressive with our growth strategy, and this represents that.
A Level Results Day 2020 grades are “robust and dependable”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says
Boris Johnson said that the exam results published today are “robust” and “dependable”.
He said: “Well let me first of all say that I want to congratulate all the students who have worked so hard to get the grades that they have and have done so well.
“And let’s be in no doubt about it, the exam results that we’ve got today are robust, they’re good, they’re dependable for employers, but already I think that there’s a record number of candidates, of students, who are able to get their first choice course at the university of their choice.
“Plus, there’s a record number of students, of pupils, from disadvantaged backgrounds who now as a result of these grades, will be able to go to university.”
Data analysis by The Telegraph’s Dominic Gilbert and Alex Clark shows that the most deprived students have seen the biggest downgrades, while top marks in private schools are on the up.
How top travel destinations and tourist hotspots are coping with Covid
More than 330 million jobs worldwide depend on travel, in turn contributing to about ten per cent of global GDP. In some countries, it is much more, with the Caribbean countries being the starkest examples.
In the island nation of Antigua & Barbuda, 91 per cent of employment last year was in the travel and tourism sector, which the World Travel & Tourism Council says is the highest industry in the world.
Beyond the Caribbean, the Chinese casino enclave of Macau is next, with 66 per cent of jobs relying on tourism; followed by the Maldives (60 per cent) and the Seychelles (40 per cent).
In Europe, Croatia – which has seen a huge boom in tourism over the past decade – takes the top spot, with foreign visitors contributing to more than 20 per cent of its GDP.
That’s followed by Iceland, Greece, Malta and Portugal – with the latter doing its best to convince holidaymakers in Britain that it is still a safe destination for them to visit this summer.
It is hard, therefore, to understate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on these economies, and why these countries have been prepared to open their borders as soon as possible to countries with far higher infection risks than their own.
Annabel Fenwick Elliott has more details here.
Food waste campaign launched by China amid fears of coronavirus shortages
China’s President Xi Jinping has called for an end of food waste as the country launched a “Clean Your Plate Campaign”.
President Xi urged citizens to remain vigilant on food security despite the fact there is no shortage of harvests. There has been concern of a looming food crisis made worst by the pandemic and floods in southern China. But Chinese agriculturalists said those factors would not impact this year’s domestic food security.
President Xi encouraged the implementation of a long-term solution to stop wasting food at restaurants.
“Food waste is at a shocking and distressing level as tens of thousands tons of food are left on dining tables every day to be thrown out,” Xi said. “It’s necessary to raise public awareness on the issue further and to foster an environment of reducing food consumption.”
Ordering more dishes more the table can consume and to fill a table has been a norm in China, especially at banquets. Behind that mindset is a tradition of flaunting wealth and superstition that a banquet host should order a variety of dishes for auspicious reasons.
Wendy Tang reports from Beijing.
South Korea coronavirus spread to be curbed through ‘smart shelters’ on public transport
Authorities in the South Korean capital Seoul have installed a series of new smart bus stops that check commuters for coronavirus and deny them entry if they have a high temperature.
To enter the high-tech and fortified shelter, passengers must stand in front of an automated, thermal-imaging camera. If their temperature exceeds 37.5 C, they are barred from entering and boarding a bus.
The glass-walled booths, known as ‘smart shelters’, also have UV disinfectant lamps built into the air-conditioning units, simultaneously killing the virus and cooling the air.
Despite the fact the novel coronavirus spreads more easily indoors than outdoors, local officials in the Seongdong district of the capital have chosen to install the covered shelters to provide citizens respite from Seoul’s brutal summer weather. Monsoon rains provide little relief from the crushing heat and humidity.
Marcus Parekh has all the details.
Revolut, Monzo bank and Starling Bank all face a bruising reality
They were once the shining stars of Britain’s technology industry, promising to battle high street banks and create billions for the economy.
At their peak, Britain’s digital banks were so popular that people were forced to sign up to waiting lists to get their hands on their iconic metal cards.
But one year later, and many of these promising fintech startups are struggling as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic makes itself clear.
Over the past few weeks, digital banking companies in the UK have held virtual board meetings with their investors in which they agreed to dial back aggressive growth plans.
James Cook has the full story.
Comment: ‘Taking part in Rishi Sunak’s eat out to help out scheme is no match for going back to the office’
Packed restaurants and busy bars bring joy, and perhaps cholesterol, to the heart after months of lockdown and desolation on the high street, writes Tim Wallace.
Rishi Sunak’s “eat out to help out” scheme has given swathes of previously deserted eateries at least three busy days per week, and seems to have brought out plenty of customers who would not otherwise have indulged.
This columnist has so far managed three discount dinners when he would usually have stayed at home. It would have been more if so many places had not been fully booked.
It is a spectacular, recession-busting start to August for the hospitality industry.
But Sunak’s suppers were not only intended to give cafes a one-month boost.
It seems there is a fair chance the Chancellor has successfully rebooted the hospitality industry for good. After all, it would be odd for people who spent much of August stuffing their faces in public to coop themselves back up again indefinitely from September.
Millions have risked the virus to bag a discount dinner. It proves we are ready to go back to life as normal, including work.
Read Tim’s full column here.
New NHS test and trace app welcomed by Royal College of Physicians
The Royal College of Physicians has welcomed the launch of the government’s new Test and Trace app.
Professor Donal O’Donoghue, Royal College of Physicians registrar, said:
This initial launch of the NHS Test and Trace app is a welcome step forward. It is vital the government does everything it can to increase the accuracy and coverage of NHS Test and Trace. The increased focus on partnership working between NHS Test and Trace and councils will be key to reducing COVID-19 community transmission.
To ensure the app has the confidence of the public and healthcare staff, it is crucial that it works well in hospitals. Guidance from NHS England for its appropriate use in clinical settings is vital, and we look forward to working with them so that solutions to the challenges faced by NHS staff are incorporated into new guidance and the app’s functionality.
Once the app is fully up and running, it will be important that uptake from healthcare staff and the general public is as high as possible to ensure its effectiveness.
US coronavirus deaths hit highest one-day figure since May
Nearly 1,500 US coronavirus deaths were logged on Wednesday in its deadliest day of summer, marking the highest single-day death toll since mid-May.
The total US death toll is currently estimated at around 169,161, with more than 5.3 million confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Meanwhile Robert Redfield, the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned that the US faces its ‘worst fall ever’ for public health, and said that everyone in America should comply with relevant public health advice to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Almost 175,000 children to receive free mobile phone amid Punjab coronavirus outbreak
Nearly 175,000 impoverished children in the Indian state of the Punjab will receive a free smartphone so they can continue their education remotely, Joe Wallen reports from New Delhi.
Schools in India remain shut to slow the spread of the world’s third-largest Covid-19 outbreak, with many states instructing educational facilities to close in early March. The Indian Government instructed schools to continue lessons online but this is impossible for much of the nation’s poor.
Just over ten percent of Indians still live on less than £1.50-a-day and they can’t afford to purchase a smartphone or another device that permits video calling, like a tablet.
Captain Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of the Punjab, had promised to give free smartphones to poor students when he was standing for election in 2017 but has accelerated the scheme with the onset of Covid-19.
An initial 174,015 students aged between 16-18 in public schools will receive a handset, at a cost of £10.2 million. The vast majority of beneficiaries will be from impoverished, rural areas and belong to lower-castes or scheduled tribes.
Harpreet Kaur, from the village of Jallah, told the Indian Express the scheme meant she wouldn’t have to wait for her truck mechanic father to return home late at night and try to borrow his smartphone.
“Even when he reached home, I had to share the phone with my two other siblings who too go to school,” said Ms. Kaur. “I would get the phone for very less time and it wasn’t always possible to complete the pending work”.
Several other Indian states are said to be considering distributing smartphones to tablets to poor pupils, over fears they will fall behind with their studies or drop out of school entirely.
The United Nations has warned that almost 24 million children globally could leave education prematurely if schools remain shut and alternatives are not provided.
UK ‘does not have enough herd immunity’ to prevent a second wave of Covid-19
A health expert has warned there is not currently enough immunity within the population of the UK to prevent a second wave of infection.
Dr Lilith Whittles, postdoctoral researcher in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, said calculating the infection rate – known as R – on a regional level is going to be “our best signifier” as to whether a second wave of coronavirus has started.
She agreed that the quick and proper management of local outbreaks would be the UK’s best way to prevent a second wave, and that not doing this could lead to a “similar-sized” peak to the peak seen in April.
Speaking on the results of the largest study on home coronavirus antibody testing, led by Imperial College London, Dr Whittles said: “We’re nowhere near the level of population immunity that we would need to prevent the occurrence of a second wave.
“In a worst-case scenario of a second wave we could see a peak of a similar size to the first.”
Eat out to help out scheme has ‘huge issues’, says public health director
Leicester’s director of public health has said he has “huge issues” with the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, warning that it sends out the wrong message to people.
Ivan Browne has urged ministers to change the “narrative” when it comes to easing restrictions and how public health policy is communicated.
“This (the virus) has not gone away – it’s still here,” Mr Browne told a Covid-19 webinar hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine. “So, when we start talking about easements and it’s all going to be OK, we’ve got to stop that narrative.
“I have huge issues with things like Eat Out To Help Out … when I’m walking up my road and seeing people queuing up, it’s a concern.
“We’ve got to get a clear narrative of where we are, being in control and being cautious, and make sure we are not giving this virus the opportunity to pass on, because it will.”
UK coronavirus deaths: 13 new hospital deaths in England today
A further 13 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, which brings the total number of confirmed deaths recorded in hospitals to 29,444, NHS England has said this afternoon.
The patients were aged between 49 and 90 and one patient, aged 86, had no known underlying health conditions.
Another four deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
Health officials in Wales have said that there have been no further reported deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus, meaning that the total number of deaths in Wales since the start of the pandemic remains at 1,586.
Public Health Wales said the total number of cases in the country had increased by 15, bringing the revised total of confirmed cases to 17,499.
Brazil coronavirus latest as Christ the Redeemer statue cleaned by soldiers
As health restrictions in Rio de Janeiro are eased, soldiers of the Brazilian Armed Forces have started to disinfect the Christ the Redeemer site, which was previously closed due to the pandemic.
Brazil this week became the second country, after the United States, to pass 100,000 coronavirus deaths, with its outbreak showing no signs of easing.
Generation Asterisk: From A Level Results onwards, how the Class of 2020 will forever be marked by Covid-19
This year the moment of truth for prospective university students has been replaced by a miasma of doubt, writes Harry de Quetteville.
The distilling of hopes and dreams, of university and career, has been replaced by uncertainty and the prospect of snide comments for ever more: “Ah yes, you got your results in 2020.” Not so much A star as A asterisk – marked out for eternal doubt like the performances of thickly-bearded East German female athletes in the 1980s.
It feels like a unique nightmare for all sides – both those who were heading for top marks anyway, their grades now regarded with scepticism; and those whose performance has been shattered by the pandemic.
And it is unique. “Without precedent,” according to Sir Anthony Seldon, the former headmaster and historian. “Students, sometimes classes, could fall to individual tragedy,” he says. “But to have an entire year wiped out like this? Not even in 1914-18 or 1939-45, did schools close down, were exams not sat. We’ve never been here before.”
He worries that teenagers, so often their own harshest critics, will be beset by self-doubt as results are announced.
Down the decades its very notoriety will make results day 2020 a badge of renown for those whose lives it upset, a club with few members. They may one day come to be known for their risk-aversion, mistrust, and abiding sense of injustice.
Equally, more happily, they may be famed for their resilience, independence and rule-busting entrepreneurialism. For now, though, it is certain that they will not be forgotten.
Read Harry’s full column here.
A-Level Results Day: Now what for Year 13 students? Here’s advice from our education editor Camilla Turner
Rolls-Royce news of cash crunch is just another crisis for the firm
In normal times, August should be a boom time for Rolls Royce, writes our industry editor Alan Tovey.
It follows the traditional Farnborough and Paris airshows, staged in alternating summers, when the aviation industry shows off futuristic new technology, seals deals and generally schmoozes. Rolls typically entertains clients on the balcony of its multi-story chalet, allowing the flight displays to steal attention away from the company’s pre-existing problems.
Not this year, however. Covid-19 saw the aerospace jamboree cancelled, replaced by online seminars that did little to draw focus away from the catastrophic collapse in air transport.
Even the more optimistic predictions for the recovery of the airline industry expect it will be at least two years before there is a return to pre-pandemic levels, and that’s just for short-haul flights.
Coronavirus outbreak confirmed at Northampton sandwich factory
An outbreak of Covid-19 has been confirmed at a sandwich factory in Northampton, with Greencore saying that some of its staff are now in self-isolation after several tested positive for coronavirus.
The company took the decision to proactively test workers as a result of a rise in cases in the town.
In a statement, Greencore said:
As a result of the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the Northampton area, we took the decision to start proactively testing all of the colleagues at our Northampton site.
We can confirm that a number of colleagues have tested positive for the virus and are now self-isolating.
We are liaising closely with PHE East Midlands, Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council, who are fully supportive of the controls that we have on site.
In each case we have immediately conducted contact tracing and instructed potentially affected colleagues to self-isolate.
All of Greencore’s sites have wide-ranging social distancing measures, stringent hygiene procedures and regular temperature checking in place, and we are doing everything that we can to keep our people safe.
Sport news today: England v Pakistan, Phil Jones tweet, Ozil pay cut
Novavax to work with South Korea on Covid-19 vaccine
Novavax Inc has announced that South Korea’s SK bioscience will manufacture a component of the U.S. drug developer’s experimental coronavirus vaccine.
The new partners announced a development and supply agreement for the antigen component of NVX-CoV2373, Novavax’ Covid-19 vaccine candidate, for supply to global markets including the COVAX Facility.
The companies have also signed a letter of intent with the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare to work toward broad and equitable access to NVX-CoV2373 for the global market as well as to make the vaccine available in South Korea.
Under the terms of the agreement, SK bioscience will manufacture the vaccine antigen component for use in the final drug product globally during the pandemic period.
“We are proud to partner with SK bioscience to fulfill our commitment to ensure global supply of NVX-CoV2373 in alignment with our partnership with CEPI,” said Stanley C. Erck, President and CEO of Novavax. “SK bioscience shares our sense of urgency to ensure broad and equitable access for our COVID-19 vaccine candidate around the world.”
Novavax Inc said on August 4 that its experimental Covid-19 vaccine produced antibodies against the novel coronavirus, according to initial data from a small, early-stage clinical trial.
Italian Prime Minister and government investigated but not charged by prosecutors over Italy coronavirus response
Prosecutors have investigated Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and six members of his government over how they handled the coronavirus crisis, but have recommended the case be dropped, Conte’s office has said .
Judicial sources confirmed to Reuters that the prosecutors had investigated the ministers following lawsuits filed in recent months in various cities. Accusations including manslaughter, creating a pandemic and curbing Italians’ political rights.
The Rome-based prosecutors concluded that the accusations were groundless and the case should be dropped, the premier’s office said in a statement, meaning it is very unlikely that Conte or his ministers will face trial.
Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has recorded more than 35,000 deaths since its outbreak came to light on 21 February.
Conte said on Facebook on Thursday, “We always took responsibility for (our) decisions. Very demanding ones, at times painful, taken without having a manual, guidelines, or protocols”.
“We always acted (supported by) science and with conscience, without claiming to be infallible, and aware that we must make as few mistakes as possible,” he said, adding that the government’s actions were always “cautious and transparent”.
In June Conte, Lamorgese and Speranza were questioned by prosecutors about the country’s response to the epidemic, and Conte has since said he told them everything that he personally knew.
A Level results: Private schools see biggest increase in top grades
Analysis of data from Ofqual found that the number of grades at A and above rose by 4.7 percentage points in private schools compared to last year – the highest of any type of institution.
Sixth forms, further education and tertiary colleges saw the lowest shift of just 0.3 percentage points.
Academies saw a rise of 1.7 points, while comprehensives and selective state schools all saw a rise of 2.0 and 1.2 respectively.
A number of schools in the UK have reported that they have had more than half of their grades adjusted down, according to the Association of Colleges (AoC).
In a letter to Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, it called for an urgent review into the moderation process.
David Hughes, chief executive of the AoC, said: “Colleges with large cohorts and very stable and predictable results over time are seeing their lowest grade profile ever, particularly at the higher grades, A to C.”
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader tweeted: “Something has obviously gone horribly wrong with this year’s exam results.
“The Government needs to urgently rethink. We need to guarantee the right to individual appeals, the fee for appeals waived and nothing to be ruled out, including the U-turn that was forced on the Scottish Government last week.”
Follow all the latest from Mason Boycott-Owen.
Can I appeal my A Level results? Advice for students unhappy with grades
2020 is the year that nobody could have foretold, writes Kate Townshend.
So it seems somewhat ironic that one of the impacts of Covid-19 will be grades for A-level and GCSE students that come from predictions, rather than those generated by exams – a huge change that could lead to chaos and uncertainty for thousands.
How will you ever know your real grades if you have been denied the chance to sit for them?
If you thrive under the pressure of formal tests, or had been counting on an 11th hour push on revision, you will probably question whether your marks will truly reflect your ability. If you’re not happy with your assessed grades, there will be some big decisions to make.
Should you appeal? Should you take your exams in autumn – and in that case, spend the rest of the year waiting around at home? Or should you get on with things at your second-choice university?
Read Kate’s full piece here.
New data suggests the UK is not at the start of a second wave of Covid-19
The UK is not at the beginning of a second coronavirus wave, and is still trying to end the first, new data suggests.
There were 1,434 daily new cases in the UK on average over the two weeks up to August 8, excluding care homes, according to the latest Covid Symptom Study app figures.
The latest figures are based on the data from 10,988 swab tests that were taken between July 26 and August 8.
The latest prevalence figures estimate 24,131 people in the UK currently have symptoms of Covid-19, a figure that has remained stable nationally.
Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, told the PA News agency:
It’s encouraging to see that the numbers are coming down slightly across the UK and that the isolated outbreaks in the North of England appear to be well contained so far.
This is further confirmation that we aren’t at the beginning of a second wave and rather, still trying to end the first. The figures also suggest that the outbreaks we are seeing in other countries such as Belgium, France and Spain aren’t having an effect here in the UK yet.
On top of this, the hot weather which caused concern by making many flock to crowded beaches and parks doesn’t seem to be having the predicted negative impact.
Overall, we are pleasantly surprised by the figures this week, which are back down to the early July levels and hope that the good news continues.
Lebanon government proposes sweeping powers for army after Beirut explosion
Lebanon’s parliament met on Thursday to debate a state of emergency law that would grant the military sweeping powers to quell unrest following a deadly explosion in Beirut that has reignited angry anti-government protests.
Exceptional powers under the law could be used to end renewed protests demanding the overthrow of a political elite widely blamed for the catastrophic explosion, a human rights group said.
The August 4 blast killed at least 171 people, according to the health ministry, and destroyed an estimated 6,000 buildings in Beirut, further enraging Lebanese already struggling amid a collapsing economy and worsening coronavirus pandemic.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Lebanon as the country reported its worst ever day for infections on Tuesday, a week after the devastating explosion in Beirut.
Lebanese security forces deployed heavily in Beirut on Thursday, blocking roads to prevent protesters from reaching a conference centre on the outskirts of the capital where members of parliament met for the first time since last Tuesday’s blast.
The government declared a state of emergency the day after the explosion but the measure must be endorsed by parliament to last longer than a week, according to Lebanese law monitor The Legal Agenda.
Campbell MacDiarmid has the full story.
US election 2020: Will it be third-time lucky for Obama’s right-hand man Joe Biden?
Joe Biden has wanted to be president for at least 30 years. He first ran in 1988, crashing out in his bid for the Democratic nomination over a plagiarism scandal, writes Ben-Riley Smith.
In 2008, Mr Biden took on Barack Obama but again stumbled at the first hurdle, securing less than 1 per cent of the vote at the all-important Iowa caucus.
At the last election it was tragedy that intervened, with the then-vice president declining to run after his son Beau’s death from cancer.
Now, with Mr Biden the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and launching strong criticisms of President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, one question looms large – is 2020 the year Mr Biden finally gets over the line?
In an anti-establishment moment, will US voters really go for the guy who has spent almost half a century at the heart of Washington’s “swamp”?
Read Ben’s full analysis here.
Nicola Sturgeon warns against ‘undue alarm’ as Scotland lockdown measures continue in Aberdeen
Addressing two new coronavirus clusters that have been reported within the past 24 hours and the outbreak in Aberdeen, the First Minister said that there is no need for any “undue alarm”, but cautioned against complacency.
Since the beginning of the Aberdeen cluster, 182 cases of coronavirus have been linked to the outbreak with 961 contacts identified.
A cluster of eight cases was identified in Glasgow on Wednesday and another set in Orkney – with potential links to the Aberdeen outbreak being investigated.
Nicola Sturgeon said that “clusters of this kind, I’m afraid to say, are inevitable”, adding: “We should become more used to hearing about several different clusters because the virus hasn’t gone away.
“But while we shouldn’t be unduly alarmed, it is equally important that we’re not in any way complacent.”
A household cluster in Peterhead currently under investigation has led to the closure of a primary school, the First Minister added.
Chinese city of Shenzhen finds packages of imported chicken wings from Brazil with coronavirus
The Chinese southern city of Shenzhen has found packages of imported frozen chicken wings from Brazil with coronavirus on Thursday, Wendy Tang reports from Beijing.
Local disease control centres tested a surface sample taken from the chicken wings as part of routine screenings carried out on eat and seafood imports since June, when an outbreak in Beijing traced to a wholesale food centre.
Shenzhen’s health authorities tracked and tested all personnel who might have come into contact with potentially contaminated food products and found all results negative.
It is not the first case reported in China that traces of coronavirus are found in packaging foods. China’s northwestern Shaanxi province reported coronavirus were detected on the packaging of frozen shrimps from Ecuador a day earlier.
The Shenzhen Epidemic Prevention and Control Headquarters warned the public to take precautions to reduce infection risk from imported meat and seafood.
China has been stepping up screenings of all meat and seafood containers at major ports amid the concerns over food imports recently. China has also suspended some meat imports from various origins including Brazil since mid-June. Markets have been a major link in tracing the virus. The first cluster of Covid-19 was linked to a seafood market in the city of Wuhan.
Net increase in fishing post-lockdown with Britons angling for better mental health
Fishing in England has seen a post Covid-19 lockdown boom as more people take advantage of the mental health and wellbeing benefits of casting a rod and being at one with nature, the Environment Agency said this morning.
The agency revealed that at least 100,000 more people are angling than before lockdown came into place, and rod licence sales have risen by nearly a fifth compared to the same time last year.
Fishing retailers have also reported huge demand for beginners’ fishing kits and tackle since lockdown restrictions eased on May 13.
Alongside golf, angling was one of the first sports enjoyed in splendid isolationas England inched toward normality.
There are currently over 750,000 anglers with a licence in England and Wales and the Environment Agency is targeting a figure of million by 2025. Medical professionals are also backing calls for more Britons to go fishing.
“Growing evidence suggests that spending time in ‘green’ and ‘blue’ spaces has a very positive effect on our mental health, providing protective and restorative benefits,” said Antonis Kousoulis, director of the Mental Health Foundation.
Russia Covid-19 vaccine to be rolled out for large-scale human testing in the Philippines
The Philippines will begin large-scale human testing of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine in October, our South Asia correspondent Ben Farmer reports.
A spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte said the leader will receive a jab when regulators can guarantee it is safe.
Moscow’s declaration this week that it had developed the world’s first vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus has been met with concern that safety protocols might have been steam-rollered.
Duterte had offered himself up as a guinea pig for the very first jab, expressing “huge trust” in the vaccine, despite the scepticism.
Philippine experts will review next month the results of Russia’s Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials before the Southeast Asian country starts its Phase 3 testing.
President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia had approved the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, underlining his faith in the controversial drug by saying it had been tested on one of his daughters.
Coronavirus R rate in Scotland could be as high as 1.3 amid Aberdeen lockdown, Nicola Sturgeon warns
Figures to be published later today will show the R-rate was above one in Scotland last week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The upper estimate could be as high as 1.3, she said, partly because of the outbreaks in Aberdeen which have led to local lockdown measures.
Ms Sturgeon said that while the R-rate becomes less accurate as overall numbers decline, the new figures will still act as a reminder of “the fragility of our position”.
The report will also set out 250 people who could have been infectious with the virus, which reflects the low levels of transmission overall, the First Minister added.
New NHS test and trace contact tracing app: Matt Hancock and Dido Harding react to launch
In response to the launch of the new contact tracing app, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has said:
It’s essential we get the country moving again so people can get back to doing what they love. Our statistics show more people with symptoms are getting tested and NHS Test and Trace reaches the vast majority of people testing positive, and their contacts.
We are seeing a significant rise in the number of people with symptoms getting tested, and 90 per cent of people who turn up to be tested get their results by the next day.
We’ve worked with tech companies, international partners, privacy and medical experts to develop an app that is simple to use, secure and will help keep the country safe.
Building on the feedback from the first phase, I want to thank Isle of Wight residents who will again play a vital national role in fighting this pandemic, joined by residents in Newham, London and our incredible NHS Volunteer Responders.
We are hugely grateful to everyone playing their part to rigorously test the new app and provide the foundation for a national roll-out.
Dido Harding, Executive Chair of the NHS Test and Trace Programme, said:
It’s really important that we make it as easy as possible for everyone to engage with NHS Test and Trace. By launching an app that supports our integrated, localised approach to NHS Test and Trace, anyone with a smartphone will be able to find out if they are at risk of having caught the virus, quickly and easily order a test, and access the right guidance and advice.
There is no silver bullet when it comes to tackling coronavirus. The app is a great step forward and will complement all of the work we are doing with local areas across the country to reach more people in their communities and work towards our vision of helping more people get back to the most normal life possible at the lowest risk.
I am hugely grateful to the Isle of Wight, Newham and the NHS responders for playing their part.
New contact tracing app is only right half the time, health officials say
Current trials have showed that NHS contact tracing app being developed is only right half of the time – with a “false positive” rate of 45 per cent.
The Government today announced pilots of the new app, in Isle of Wight and Newham. But testing of the new system shows that the app has a false positive rate of 45 per cent.
This means that almost half of people contacted and told they have been close to someone who tested positive have not actually been within two metres of them.
Health officials said that the results so far show a false positive rate of 45 per cent, as well as a false negative rate of 31 per cent. They aim to improve the accuracy of this.
A Level results: Girls extend lead over boys in top grades
Girls have extended their lead over boys in the top grades for A-levels this year as students around the country found out their results.
The proportion of girls who got A or higher was 28.4 per cent, 1.1 percentage points higher than boys (27.3 per cent).
Last year, girls led boys by just 0.1 percentage points, while boys briefly took the lead in 2017 and 2018.
It comes as close to 40 per cent of A-level grades were downgraded, figures show, amid calls for the Government to U-turn on its grading system.
A total of 39.1 per cent of grades in England were lowered from teachers’ predictions, data from the exam regulator Ofqual showed.
My colleague Mason Boycott-Owen has all the latest.
Contact tracing app trial set to launch on the Isle of Wight – again
It’s groundhog day for Isle of Wight residents, who will once again be at the centre of the trial for a new NHS contact tracing app, the Department for Health and Social Care has confirmed today.
The app will also be rolled out in Newham, east London, and it will include the ability to check in at venues such as pubs using a QR code scan. It will be able to alert users if someone else in a particular venue tests positive for Covid-19.
Users will also be able to check the level of coronavirus risk in their postcode district, while there will also be a symptom-checker and a functionality to book tests using Google and Apple-developed technology.
Trials will begin from on the Isle of Wight and with NHS volunteer responders across England, followed shortly by Newham residents, as part of the country’s NHS Test and Trace service.
It will log the time and distance a user has spent near to anyone – even if they don’t know them – so it can alert them if necessary if that person later tests positive for Covid-19.
Britons were originally told that a previous contact-tracing app could be less than a fortnight from a wider launch as it went on trial on the Isle of Wight, but it wasn’t long before delays emerged.
The first app was finally abandoned in June and the Government will instead use the technology developed by Apple and Google after months of delays the first time round, and an app that was plagued by technical problems and concerns over a lack of privacy.
NHS waiting list numbers at highest level since records began
The number of people waiting longer than 18 weeks for routine hospital treatment in England is at the highest level since records began, new figures showed today.
The figure rose to more than 1.85 million in June, topping the 1.79 million recorded in August 2007.
Data from NHS England also showed urgent cancer referrals dropped by a fifth on the same month last year, rising to 43 per cent for breast cancer.
A total of 153,134 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in June, down from 194,047 in June last year – a drop of 21 per cent – while the number of urgent breast cancer referrals decreased from 14,885 to 8,495.
The figures are “worryingly low” and suggest “an alarming backlog of undiagnosed cancer” as well as a growing number of people yet to start treatment, warned Sara Bainbridge, head of policy and influence at Macmillan Cancer Support.
She said the amount of time that cancer patients are having to wait “could directly impact on many of these people’s chances of survival”.
“To ensure services are able to catch up we need the Government to deliver the recovery plan promised and continue to address the scale of the challenge by securing more staffing and resources.”
‘It’s a broiling mess of sticky bodies’: A Kent Riviera travel postcard
Right now, post lockdown, and on some of the hottest days of the year, you might be wise to aim for a beach that isn’t the poster child of the Kent tourism board.
Botany Bay is a broiling mass of sticky bodies with just a couple of toilets, a kiosk and a tiny parking area. As the tide edges in, those sticky bodies edge closer together.
Local residents are up in arms and parking tickets are being issued like raffle tickets at a country fayre. You can only imagine the council rubbing their hands in glee at the additional summer bonus to their coffers.
Rachel Mills has the full picture of a holiday on the Kent Riviera here.
Britons looking to travel to France and Malta await fate as quarantine list update looms
Tens of thousands of Britons in France could find out today whether they will need to self-isolate on their return to the UK with a review of the Government’s quarantine policy due, writes Lizzie Frainier.
France’s infection rate over the last week has risen to 18.1 per 100,000 residents, almost double that of the UK, and 2,524 new cases were reported on Wednesday, a significant jump from the 1,397 seen on Tuesday.
Daily case numbers also exceeded more than 2,000 over the weekend, prompting the French prime minister Jean Castex to warn the country it was becoming careless. “If we don’t act collectively, we expose ourselves to the heightened risk that the rebound in the epidemic becomes hard to control,” he said.
The Government’s ‘Covid Cabinet’, which is chaired by the Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, met on Wednesday to discuss implementing a mandatory 14-day quarantine on travellers arriving from the country.
A clutch of other countries are also at risk of being removed from the Foreign Office’s “green” list.
Spain coronavirus cases rise sees smoking ban introduced in public places
From today the Galicia region of Spain has banned smoking or vaping in open public spaces where a social distance of 2m cannot be guaranteed – which effectively means terrace bars and busy streets, reports James Badcock.
Several other regions are reported to be considering following suit. Health authorities in Spain have said smoking enables the spread of Covid-19 due to droplets from the lungs in exhaled smoke. An anti-smoking campaign group had gathered more than 80,000 signatures on a petition asking for a nationwide ban on smoking in outdoor public places.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalisations in Spain continue to rise steadily. New cases registered on Wednesday totalled 3,826, up from 3,632 on Tuesday, and after Madrid’s 12 de Octubre hospital yesterday cancelled operations there are now reports that A&E is becoming saturated due to closed wards and staff shortages in summer.
Algarve tourism board launches adverts to promote Portugal travel as safe for British tourists
The Algarve’s tourism board has partnered with British television channel Channel 5, which will start airing a commercial promoting the region as a safe destination for travellers, James Badcock writes.
The 50-second advertising spot will be aired “around 38 times a week” between next Thursday (August 20) and the end of October and is expected to reach a weekly viewing audience of 175,000.
The commercial will also feature a draw which will award two lucky viewers a seven-night stay at one of the Algarve’s five-star hotels.
While the pandemic has led the Algarve tourism board to invest even more strongly in other markets such as France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, it has certainly not given up on its goal of regaining the trust of the country’s ‘oldest allies’.
“We are strongly committed to reversing the negative effects of the UK’s decision (to keep Portugal off its travel corridor, and this means we have to strengthen and repeat our message that the Algarve is a safe destination and is totally prepared to once again welcome UK tourists with all the quality and wellbeing they are used to,” said Algarve tourism chief João Fernandes.
Boris Johnson coronavirus response has been a ‘shambles’, says Nigel Farage
Boris Johnson isn’t really a Conservative and Middle England is starting to lose hope in him, says Nigel Farage.
In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, the Brexit Party leader said that the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has been “a shambles” and that voters no longer have confidence in the Prime Minister on law and order and immigration.
“The vast, vast majority of Conservative supporters and voters, particularly in that red wall that helped get Boris his majority, want to live in a country where the police are in control, where we have proper law and order,” he said.
“I think Boris is in danger of losing Middle England on these subjects. I really do.
“His problem is that Middle England is beginning to lose hope with him on law and order, on the immigration, and dare I mention it, the handling of the coronavirus crisis, which frankly has been a shambles.”
Coronavirus reaches overcrowded Islamic State camps in Syria where British minors are trapped
Eight children under five died in Al-Hol camp last week, Save the Children said on Thursday, raising concerns for an estimated 60 British minors trapped in camps for Islamic State supporters and their children in northeast Syria, Campbell MacDiarmid reports.
The spike in child mortality between 6-10 August was three times higher than the rate since the start of 2020, and comes as coronavirus has reached the overcrowded camp, complicating the provision of aid.
Four of the children died from complications related to malnutrition, while others died from dehydration caused by diarrhoea, heart failure, internal bleeding and hypoglycaemia, according to the UN’s agency for children.
Health services to the camp were reduced after workers tested positive for COVID-19, UNICEF said. The first case among camp residents was announced on Monday and there are fears the virus could spread quickly in the densely populated facility.
Only one of three field hospitals in Al-Hol are operational, Save the Children said, partly due to coronavirus but also as border closures have reduced humanitarian access to northeast Syria this year.
“The camp is on the brink of a COVID-19 outbreak, with reduced medical facilities available and a lack of protective equipment for staff to operate safely,” said Save the Children Syria Response Director, Sonia Khush.
“We are seeing a collective failure at all levels to protect children,” she said. “This is the result of ongoing failure of the UN Security Council to reopen the closest border-crossing, leading to unforgivable delays in services at the time when children need them most.”
Al-Hol camp is run by Western-backed Syrian Kurdish forces and holds more than 65,000 people, mostly women and children, from more than 60 countries.
Comment: It’s time to go for growth before Covid destroys the UK economy
The UK has ended up in a super-league of its own, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, with the highest level of excess deaths in Europe and the deepest economic contraction in Europe as well.
This is the worst failure of British state policy in my lifetime, a domestic Suez, for which nobody has yet been held to account.
Nevertheless, we cannot purge the original sin of early March by draconian purity five months later. The welfare costs of total war against Covid-19 arguably exceed the welfare benefits already. Every week shifts the calculus further. We probably reached the crossover point in July.
The picture now bears little resemblance to the frightening drama five months ago. Survival rates have vastly improved.
We know more about natural immunity. Society is much more careful. We are closer to partial herd immunity among that crucial bloc of the population in face-to-face jobs and therefore most likely to spread the virus.
Britain no longer has a Covid-free status to protect and therefore has a cruel advantage over the next few months. It is further along this course than most OECD states. It has less to risk from opening up, and much to gain.
So perhaps we should call it a day and go for growth before we do lasting structural damage to the British economy and to British society.
Read Ambrose’s full article here.
F1 news: Sergio Perez to race in Spanish Grand Prix after negative coronavirus test
The racing driver Sergio Perez will compete in Spain this weekend after his latest Covid-19 test was negative, his Formula One team Racing Point said on Thursday.
The Mexican missed the two most recent Grand Prix events at Britain’s Silverstone circuit after contracting the virus and returning a positive coronavirus test before both races.
“Checo (Perez) tested negative for Covid-19 and the FIA have confirmed he can enter the paddock today and compete this weekend,” the team said in a statement from Barcelona.
Perez tested positive before the British Grand Prix after returning to Mexico to see his mother who had been in hospital following an accident.
Sunday’s race, like the five before it this season, is being held without spectators and under strict health conditions with teams operating in separate ‘bubbles’.
Follow all of the Telegraph’s award winning sport coverage here
Ahead of schools reopening, study shows children make up just 1% of coronavirus cases
Children under the age of 16 accounted for one per cent of coronavirus cases in the first peak of Covid-19 in England, a new Public Health England study has concluded.
The authors of the study said that their study provides further evidence for the “limited role of children in the pandemic”.
The study comes after Boris Johnson said getting all children back to school full-time in England next month is the “right thing for everybody” amid calls to boost coronavirus testing and tracing to ensure a safe return.
The first confirmed case involving a child was on February 29, and cases among children started to increase during the second week of March and peaked on April 11 before declining gradually – a similar trend seen in adults.
Among four children aged 10 to 15 who died, three had “multiple” other health conditions, it has emerged.
The authors added:
There has been no increase in excess deaths in children aged 0-15 years until May 3.
The experience in England adds to the growing body of evidence on the limited role of children in the Covid-19 pandemic, with just over one per cent of confirmed cases occurring in children.
Children accounted for a very small proportion of confirmed cases despite the large numbers of children tested.
Sars-CoV-2 positivity was low even in children with acute respiratory infection.
Our findings provide further evidence against the role of children in infection and transmission of Sars-CoV-2.
Comment: ‘Sweden Covid response shows true cost of the failed British establishment’
Sweden “got it largely right” and the British establishment catastrophically wrong in their responses to the coronavirus pandemic, writes Allister Heath:
Anders Tegnell, Stockholm’s epidemiologist-king, has pulled off a remarkable triple whammy: far fewer deaths per capita than Britain, a maintenance of basic freedoms and opportunities, including schooling, and, most strikingly, a recession less than half as severe as our own.
Our arrogant quangocrats and state “experts” should hang their heads in shame: their reaction to coronavirus was one of the greatest public policy blunders in modern history, more severe even than Iraq, Afghanistan, the financial crisis, Suez or the ERM fiasco.
Millions will lose their jobs when furlough ends; tens of thousands of small businesses are failing; schooling is in chaos, with A-level grades all over the place; vast numbers are likely to die from untreated or undetected illnesses; and we have seen the first exodus of foreigners in years, with the labour market survey suggesting a decline in non-UK born adults.
Pandemics always come with large economic and social costs, for reasons of altruism as well as of self-interest. The only way to contain the spread of a deadly, contagious disease, in the absence of a cure or vaccine, is to social distance; fear and panic inevitably kick in, as the public desperately seeks to avoid catching the virus. A “voluntary” recession is almost guaranteed.
Almost all economists thought that Sweden’s economy would suffer hugely from its idiosyncratic strategy. They were wrong. Sweden’s GDP fell by just 8.6 per cent in the first half of the year, all in the second quarter, and its excess deaths jumped 24 per cent.
By contrast, Britain’s economy slumped by 22.2 per cent in the first half of the year, a performance almost three times as bad as Sweden’s, and its excess deaths shot up by 45 per cent. Spain’s national income slumped even more (22.7 per cent), and France’s (down 18.9 per cent) and Italy’s (down 17.1 per cent) slightly less, but all three also suffered far greater per capita excess deaths than Sweden.
Read Allister’s full column here.
Germany coronavirus cases backlog forms with 900 not told they had tested positive
German authorities have worked throughout the night to clear a backlog of coronavirus tests from travellers, after it emerged that 900 people who were positive for Covid-19 had yet to be informed.
Melanie Huml, the Bavarian health minister, said that all people with positive results would be informed today and that systems are undergoing improvement in order to prevent any further delays.
Bavaria has been offering free voluntary tests at airports, as well as specific train stations and highway rest areas, and has carried out some 85,000 since the end of July, Huml said.
The interest was higher than expected, and the delays were almost exclusively at the rest areas and train stations, where some 60,000 people were tested.
Those operations were initially run by aid organisations but are now being taken over by private companies, which are making the results digitised following the delay in communicating the results of 44,000 tests.
As of Saturday, any travellers coming from areas that are considered ‘high-risk’ have been required to take coronavirus tests.
Working from home policy has seen internet down for more than 1 in 3 Britons
More than a third of Britons have had their internet cut out over the past year, even as they came to increasingly rely on their connections, Hannah Boland writes.
New research from Uswitch suggested that more than 20 million adults in the UK had experienced an outage in the past 12 months, whilst 4.8 million Britons had not been able to get online for at least three hours due to power-cuts, broadband issues or routine maintenance on cables.
Around a quarter of people were working when their internet crashed, Uswitch said, meaning such issues could be costing the UK economy more than £1.5bn every year, when accounting for lost time at work.
Internet connections have become increasingly important over the past year, after millions switched to remote work during the pandemic.
Estimates have suggested that up to 40pc of people have been able to work from home, and many companies are now looking at slashing office space to save on costs. However, unreliable internet connections could make a permanent move difficult for many workers.
Read the full story here.
A Level Results: Universities asked to show ‘maximum amount of flexibility’ towards students getting results
The latest comments from the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson – who has asked universities to show the “maximum amount of flexibility” towards new and prospective students on a results day unlike any other.
There have been calls this morning for the Government to abandon its grading system amid estimates that almost 40 per cent of A Level results have been downgraded this year.
Spain coronavirus cases spike as the country loses control of the virus – again
Less than two months after Spain emerged from its first lockdown, it is beginning to see patients who are struggling to breathe returning to hospital wards.
A military emergency brigade was deployed this week to set up a field hospital in Zaragoza, serving as a grim reminder that Spain is far from claiming victory over the coronavirus that devastated the European country in March and April.
Authorities said the field hospital is a precaution, but no one has forgotten the scenes of full hospitals and a daily death toll of more than 900 fatalities a few months ago.
Rafael Bengoa, the former health chief of Spain’s Basque Country, is one of 20 Spanish epidemiologists and public health experts who recently called for an independent investigation to identify the weaknesses that have made Spain among the worst affected countries by the pandemic in Europe, despite its robust universal health care system.
To add to Spain’s woes, the country has been hit by a record number of job losses in its second quarter as the effects of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown on its economy were felt. The National Statistics Institute said unemployment rose from 14.41 per cent the previous quarter, to a two-year high of 15.33 per cent – but that hid the scale of the crisis by excluding furloughed employees, and those who do not meet technical jobless criteria.
Except for teenagers and young adults, Spaniards have largely been compliant with mandatory face mask rules. The health ministry also embarked on one of the world’s largest epidemiological surveys. Randomly testing over 60,000 people, it found the virus prevalence to be five per cent, confirming that the population is still far from any form of “herd immunity.”
Spain, with a population of 47 million, currently leads European case statistics with 44,400 new cases confirmed in the past fortnight. This compares with just 4,700 new cases registered by Italy, which has 60 million inhabitants, in the same timescale.
So, what has gone so wrong? Could it be that the very success of the three-month lockdown in squashing transmission and the arrival of warm summer weather as people were allowed back out onto the streets have created a false sense of security?
House prices during recession: Is the pandemic a good time to buy?
The property market and economic performance are usually entwined: activity and house prices rise during periods of economic growth, and slow down when the nation’s finances worsen.
Jobs are lost and finances are squeezed during a recession, meaning house price rises are tempered and cautious buyers hold off from purchasing.
But the start of the current, coronavirus-induced recession has not played out in the usual way.
This is partly because we have entered recession following a public health crisis rather than a financial one, meaning that the financial system has not frozen in the same way it did in 2008.
The Government has also taken unprecedented steps to protect jobs in the short term and prop up the housing market.
Our senior personal finance reporter Adam Williams has all you need to know.
Sales at pubs and restaurants halve in first month back after UK lockdown
Britain’s biggest pub and restaurant chains suffered a 50 per cent sales slump in July as hospitality businesses reopened for the first time after lockdown.
The stark figures came as nightclub bosses wrote to culture minister Oliver Dowden demanding clarity over when they will be allowed to reopen venues, warning that continued uncertainty could risk the loss of thousands of jobs.
London firms were hit worst in their first month of reopening, industry data revealed, with sales down 58.3 per cent on a year earlier. Sales fell 48.5 per cent outside the M25.
According to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker – which collated sales from 49 firms including Pizza Express and Wagamama – bar groups suffered the largest sales decrease among their cohort, with sales down 63 per cent in July compared to a year earlier. Pub sales were down 44.7 per cent and restaurants recorded a 59.8 per cent drop.
Hannah Uttley has the story.
The future of China: No longer ‘playing nice’ with the rest of the world amid coronavirus pandemic
China’s handling of the pandemic – a heavy-handed response that included surveillance and suppression – made it clear to the world that the ruling Communist Party governed its country in a very different way than that of the West.
On paper that had always been the case. But for many nations the coronavirus has highlighted the perils of dealing with an ever-powerful China driven by its own political motivations.
Propaganda and patriotic education in China are in overdrive, painting the West as the enemy. It has prompted a rethink on engagement with Beijing, widening geopolitical fissures that were already in place.
For years China seemed to accept that it had to play by rules set by the West in order to continue its rise. Now Beijing has indicated it wants to play by its own rules, and even have a say in setting them – brandishing its true colours in a way that can’t be ignored.
Whether Beijing is successful in carving its own path – perhaps allowing other like-minded nations to follow suit – will shape global dynamics for years, perhaps decades, to come.
As China grows ever more bold, the question is: Does Beijing even care what the West thinks anymore?
Read Sophia’s full article here.
Nearly half of schools around the world do not have access to soap and water to fight Covid-19
Access to soap and water – the most basic defence against Covid-19 – will be out of reach for millions of students and their teachers when they return to full-time education, Jordan Kelly-Linden reports:
New data published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef today has found that 43 per cent of schools around the world lacked access to basic handwashing with soap and water in 2019 and provision hasn’t improved since the coronavirus outbreak began.
According to the data more than 818 million children do not have access to these basic hygiene facilities and as a result are at an increased risk of catching Covid-19 and other transmittable diseases.
In the 60 countries at highest risk of health and humanitarian crises due to Covid-19, the report found that three in four children lacked basic handwashing services at their school.
While Unicef and the WHO further highlighted that one in three schools worldwide had either limited drinking water service or none at all.
Of the children hit the hardest, more than one third (295 million) are from sub-Saharan Africa, where 56 per cent of schools do not have a basic water service and 53 per cent of schools do not have a decent toilet.
Read Jordan’s full report here.
Stonehaven train derailment ‘could have been far worse’ if not for Aberdeen lockdown
Train driver Brett McCullough and conductor Donald Dinnie died in the derailment near Stonehaven, ScotRail’s managing director has confirmed.
Alex Hynes, speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, said: “Yesterday was a devastating day for everybody who works in the rail industry in Scotland.
“Our love and support is sent to the victims of this accident and their families, those that were injured in the accident and anybody who was touched by yesterday’s terrible tragedy.”
The third person who died is believed to have been a passenger on the train.
While the three deaths made it Britain’s deadliest rail disaster in 16 years, if not for the coronavirus pandemic and a recent spike in cases in Aberdeen, it could have been far worse.
Read more from Daniel Sanderson and Danielle Sheridan here.
Man fined £2,000 under self-isolation rules after buying a bottle of water
A man was fined £2,000 for buying a bottle of water after he visited a newsagent when he should have been self-isolating.
Chef Sanjeev Kumar, 31, had agreed to isolate for two weeks after he arrived at Guernsey Airport from Southampton.
During the 10-minute walk from the airport to a hotel on Rue des Croise, where he had been working for the past two years, Mr Kumar stopped off at a shop to buy the drink.
However, the hotel’s housekeeper recognised him in the Forrest Stores newsagents and informed authorities.
Police officers later found Mr Kumar in a chalet at the hotel, where he admitted he had been in the shop.
Our reporter Max Stephens has more details.
A Level Results Day 2020: Mock exam results accepted as students get A-Level grades
Thousands of students are opening their A-Level results this morning and start the annual scramble for university places, in a year when the coronavirus pandemic has changed everything.
Students who could not take exams because of months of school closures have had their marks calculated by a statistical model.
Initial Ucas figures show the number of students accepted onto UK degree courses has risen by 2.9 per cent – up to 358,860 this year.
A-level students in England will also be able to use grades in mock exams to progress to university and college courses and employment following a last-minute U-turn.
Travel corridors: France quarantine update could see a dozen countries added to quarantine list
While all the talk is of France, a clutch of other destinations are at risk of being taken off the UK’s quarantine-free list this week.
An analysis of the latest data by The Telegraph shows that while new cases in France rose to 18.1 per 100,000 for the period August 6-12, a figure that will have alarm bells ringing in Westminster and up from 13.1 for the previous seven days, several other countries with “travel corridors” have a higher case rate.
They are the Netherlands (23.1 per 100,000), Gibraltar (35.6), Monaco (38.2), Malta (46.7), San Marino (53.0), the Faroe Islands (198.5), Turks and Caicos (278.9) and Aruba (547.9).
Below France, Denmark (15.3 per 100,000), Iceland (14.7), the Czech Republic (14.0), Switzerland (13.3) and Poland (12.7) could also enter the quarantine conversation when the Government reviews the policy this week.
All have now overtaken Portugal (12.4), which remains on the list of countries from which all arrivals, including returning holidaymakers, must self-isolate for two weeks.
Our travel news editor Hugh Morris has the full story.
Kamala Harris: Case against Donald Trump coronavirus response is ‘open and shut’
Kamala Harris has used her first speech after being named as Joe Biden’s vice presidential nominee to attack President Donald Trump’s record of tackling coronavirus, writes Ben Riley-Smith.
“There’s a reason that it [coronavirus] hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It’s because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start,” the Californian senator said at one point.
At another she referenced her past as a prosecutor when criticising the current US president and vice president, saying: “The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.”
Ms Harris criticised Mr Trump’s “delusional belief that he knows better than the experts” and said he had at times pushed “miracle cures he saw on Fox News”, an apparent reference to hydroxychloroquine.
Meanwhile President Trump told reporters that the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate was a “risky” pick, after she had insulted Joe Biden during the primary election season.
“I think she’s going to be a big failure and I think I look forward to the debate between her and Mike Pence,” he said.
Wetherspoons owner Tim Martin demands pubs coronavirus evidence
Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has called on a top scientist to share his evidence linking an Aberdeen coronavirus outbreak to customers in pubs, Hannah Uttley reports.
The outspoken pub chain chairman, whose firm runs 870 watering holes across the UK, took aim at Aberdeen University’s bacteriology professor Hugh Pennington, who said a recent outbreak in the Scottish city was tied to transmission among drinkers.
Mr Martin said: “Given the importance of the pub industry to its staff, customers and as a taxpayer to the Exchequer, it would be very useful if Professor Pennington could publish the basis of his assumptions, so that they could be thoroughly analysed and peer-reviewed.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon imposed a new lockdown on Aberdeen last week, forcing the closure of pubs and restaurants and placing restrictions on travel and interactions between households.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live last week, Professor Pennington said the the virus was more likely to be transmitted in an indoor environment such as a pub. He added: “Maybe it’s hot and a bit steamy – helps the virus to get about”.
Mr Martin agreed the “uninhibited” behaviour associated with pubs could plausibly lead to transmission, but argued that Professor Pennington remarks should be scrutinised due to the continued uncertainty over Covid.
Williamson: We will not U-turn on grades
Gavin Williamson gave his assurance that he will not make the same exams grade U-turn as was seen in Scotland.
The Education Secretary told Sky News: “Absolutely, when we’ve consulted widely, when Ofqual consulted widely (on) the whole system of awarding, this is the message that we got from everyone – this is the right approach to go forward.
“You’ve got to have a system that has checks and balances, that looks at the whole performance and making sure you maintain standards within the exam system, to ensure those results carry credibility.”
Where are coronavirus infections the highest?
With the news this morning that as many as 3.4 million people have been infected with coronavirus in England already, our data team have produced a map of where the infections are most prevalent.
This data comes from the Government’s release of infection numbers, not from the same Imperial study, but it should give a clear indication of where the hotspots are.
NHS Covid app trialled again – but it still can’t trace the virus
A new coronavirus contact tracing app will be trialled in England on Thursday, according to reports.
The app is intended to support the NHS Test and Trace effort by keeping a log of others who come into close contact but the plans have been marred by constant delays and privacy concerns.
However, the original purpose of the app (to contact people to let them know they had been in close contact with a person with Covid-19) is yet to be rolled out.
An initial version tested on the Isle of Wight was ditched by the Government in June over accuracy issues, weeks after Health Secretary Matt Hancock first suggested it would be available in mid-May.
The Government has since moved on to technology designed by Apple and Google – already used in several countries across the world – which handles data in a more privacy-friendly manner and does not suffer the same type of accuracy error.
However, this method is said to struggle with a problem of its own, measuring distance between people correctly.
According to the BBC, the Isle of Wight will be part of the trial once again, as well as one other area in England and a volunteer group.
No more changes to the exam system, honest – Williamson
Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, has ruled out further changes to the English grading system in the face of any exams backlash.
He told Times Radio: “What is clear to me is there will be some youngsters, no matter how much we try to do in terms of this system to maximise the fairness of it, who don’t get the grade they should have potentially have got.
“That’s why we need to have a really robust system, that’s why we’ve got the triple lock.”
Mr Williamson said this would provide “robust grounds of appeal” and allow pupils to take exams later in the year if required.
Asked if he was prepared to change the system again amid threats of legal action from parents, Mr Williamson replied: “We’re not going to be changing this system again.
“We believe that we’ve put in place – in terms of the triple lock, in terms of the actions we’ve taken – a system that is able to put its arm round those youngsters where there has been a grade that has been unfair on them and is able to put that right.”
Your coronavirus breakfast briefing
If you’re just joining us and catching up on the news over your cornflakes, here’s everything you need to know about Covid-19 on Thursday August 13.
More than one in 20 in England have had Covid-19 – study
Some 3.4 million people in England have been infected with Covid-19, a figure far higher than previous estimates, a study suggests.
The results come from the world’s largest home testing programme to find antibodies for the coronavirus, a study involving more than 100,000 volunteers and carried out by Imperial College London.
Conducted with the use of a simple finger-prick home test said to be easy and accurate enough for mass surveillance studies, the programme suggested 6 per cent of England’s population had already been infected with Covid-19 by July 13.
The 3.4 million people that represents is many times higher than the tally of known cases for the entire UK as posted by Johns Hopkins University in the US – whose aggregated numbers have become the main reference for monitoring the disease – and which listed the country’s case numbers at 315,546 as of Thursday morning.
The study tracked the spread of infection across England after the pandemic’s first peak, with volunteers testing themselves at home between June 20 and July 13.
Quirk means pandemic may never officially end
If you are starting to feel like the coronavirus epidemic will never end, then you may be correct.
A statistical quirk in testing means Britain may never hit zero cases, even if the virus is wiped out entirely.
The reason lies in the large number of false positives that are almost certain to creep in once case numbers drop very low, yet testing remains very high.
Testing is never 100 per cent accurate, and scientists must factor in the false positive and negative rates when determining infection prevalence.
The problem is, nobody knows what those rates are.
Read the full story here.
Medical waste piles up outside Mexico hospital
Residents of Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz have complained after photos showed mountains of bagged hospital waste piling up in a patio outside a government hospital.
The 10ft-high garbage pile outside the Adolfo Ruiz Cortines hospital has been growing for a couple of weeks, according to hospital employees and residents of the state’s largest city, also known as Veracruz.
The hospital treats patients with Covid-19, raising fears of a spread of infection. However, the Mexican Social Security Institute, which runs the hospital, said on Wednesday that the waste was not infectious or biological.
It said the hospital was trying to hire a contractor to remove the garbage.
Improper disposal of medical waste has become an increasing problem in Mexico amid the pandemic.
In May, authorities found 3.5 tons of hospital waste dumped in the woods on the outskirts of Mexico City and 6,000 cubic yards of medical waste piled ceiling-high at a clandestine warehouse in Puebla state.
Teetering piles of coffins, meanwhile, have piled up outside Mexico City’s overworked crematoriums.
New Zealand records 13 new cases
The number of infections in New Zealand has risen overnight, with the country recording a total of 19 cases in a matter of days.
It is a major blow to the country, which earlier this week recorded more than three months with no community transmission.
The situation has changed quickly since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday night that an Auckland family had tested positive, which led to the country being placed in lockdown.
New Zealand officials are scrambling to trace the source of the new outbreak of the virus, reporting 13 new cases on Thursday, as long queues of people formed to escape a renewed lockdown in the country’s biggest city and be tested.
RELATED: Coronavirus can spread on surfaces, scientists say, but people remain biggest infection risk
Victorian numbers raise hopes that virus is under control
The rate of new Covid infections in an Australian hot spot slowed on Thursday, raising hopes a second wave is being brought under control.
The state of Victoria logged 278 new infections, down from 410 a day earlier and the lowest single-day rise in more than three weeks.
The state – home to the city of Melbourne, which has been the epicentre of the latest outbreak – also recorded eight deaths over the past 24 hours.
Victoria reported 21 deaths on Wednesday, marking Australia’s deadliest day of the pandemic.
Australia has recorded just over 22,000 cases and 352 deaths.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews is urging people to be cautious as the world tackles the “wicked” virus.
“This virus doesn’t discriminate. It’s so incredibly contagious. And you just don’t know how it will affect you,” he wrote in a series of tweets.
It can start off as a bit of a cough or slight runny nose. You might not even think you’re sick.
But before you know it – you could end up in ICU with machines to help you breathe.
You’ll spend weeks if not months of your life alone in a hospital bed. pic.twitter.com/WYBBZvCcXC
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) August 12, 2020
China records 19 new infections
China reported 19 new coronavirus cases on the mainland on Wednesday, down from 25 on the previous day.
The National Health Commission said in its daily bulletin on Thursday that 11 of the new cases were imported.
It said 20 new asymptomatic cases were reported on Wednesday.
China’s total number of cases now stands at 84,756. The official death toll is unchanged at 4,634.
Florida sheriff bans deputies from wearing masks
A Florida sheriff said his deputies and visitors to the office will not be allowed to wear masks.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said in an email to staff that he had weighed both sides of the issue amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Now, I can already hear the whining and, just so you know, I did not make this decision easily and I have weighed it out for the past two weeks,” he said in the message earlier this week.
“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not. The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t.”
In July, the federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention asked Americans to wear masks to avoid spreading the virus.
Florida has recorded 550,000 cases of coronavirus and 8,898 deaths.
Marion County Sheriff Woods said exceptions to his mask prohibition will be made for deputies at jails, schools, courthouses, hospitals, nursing homes and when dealing with someone who is elderly or has Covid.
In these situations, the mask should be removed when giving orders or commands to comply, the sheriff said.
At the sheriff’s office, masks will not be allowed so that visitors can be easily identified and there is clear communication, he said.
Andrew Lloyd-Webber to volunteer for vaccine trial
Lord Lloyd-Webber has signed up as a volunteer for the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial to expedite the reopening of theatres.
The composer said he will receive a dose of the experimental drug on Thursday as part of his crusade for live performances to resume.
“I am excited that tomorrow I am going to be vaccinated for the Oxford Covid-19 trial,” he tweeted on Wednesday night.
“I’ll do anything to prove that theatres can reopen safely.”
I am excited that tomorrow I am going to be vaccinated for the Oxford Covid 19 trial. I’ll do anything to prove that theatres can re-open safely. – ALW
— Andrew Lloyd Webber (@OfficialALW) August 12, 2020
Study shows ‘limited role’ of children in pandemic
Children under the age of 16 accounted for one per cent of coronavirus cases in the first peak of Covid-19 in England, a new study has concluded.
The authors said that their study provides further evidence for the “limited role of children in the pandemic”.
The study, led by Public Health England (PHE), comes after Boris Johnson said getting all children back to school full-time in England next month is the “right thing for everybody” amid calls to boost coronavirus testing and tracing to ensure a safe return.
Read the full story here.
Care homes like ‘prisons’ with residents ‘losing will to live’
Care homes have been turned into prisons, with residents “losing the will to live” as they are deprived contact with their families, charities for the elderly have warned.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus was told that restrictions on visiting homes had become so extreme that vulnerable people were being left distressed and lonely, in some cases unable to recognise their loved ones.
Charities said belated attempts to keep residents safe from the spread of coronavirus were too often creating misery and isolation.
They criticised the Government for acting so slowly to attempt to protect care homes from the pandemic that 6,000 deaths had occurred by the time testing was introduced.
Read the full story here.
Europe’s economic winners and losers from the Covid crisis
No economy will escape the Covid crisis unscathed, but a stark divide is emerging between Europe’s relative winners and its big losers.
While countries that were forced into long-lasting and severe lockdowns to control their outbreaks have suffered most, the structure of economies and governments’ war chests will also help determine the speed and strength of the recovery.
Find out the economic winners and losers from the pandemic in Europe here.
One in 10 ‘virus deaths’ was from other causes
Nearly 10 per cent of coronavirus deaths reported by Public Health England (PHE) were not related to Covid-19, the body has admitted.
The Department of Health has been urgently reviewing the way in which it records deaths after Oxford University noticed in July that former coronavirus patients were being included in mortality figures even if they had recovered and then died of something else.
On Wednesday, the true extent of the problem emerged when PHE published a report showing that 3,664 people who had been included in 40,160 English coronavirus deaths did not have Covid-19 on their death certificate.
Read the full story here.