Rule of six must be scrapped and households banned from mingling, warns Sage advisor

Rule of six must be scrapped and households banned from mingling, warns Sage advisor

  • September 22, 2020
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Boris Johnson on Downing Street - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Boris Johnson on Downing Street – Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
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Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

Boris Johnson is expected to unveil a wave of new coronavirus restrictions today – but the plans do not go far enough, a SAGE advisor has warned.

Professor Calum Semple, from the University of Liverpool said this morning: “The numbers are rising and tracking the current worst case scenario, so there is significant anxiety amongst the scientific community.”

On the ‘Rule of Six’ he said: “Based on the numbers I’m seeing, it isn’t going far enough.”

One of the measures the Prime Minister is set to announce is a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants from Thursday. 

Other measures look to include a return to working from home, where possible, and a drive to encourage mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.

Plans for a partial return of sports fans to stadiums from October 1 have been “paused” according to Michael Gove.

This morning, the Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the Cabinet  and hold his first meeting of the Cobra emergency committee in four months, which will be attended by the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

He will address Parliament this afternoon and then the nation in a live TV broadcast at 8pm.

Follow the latest updates below. 

11:03 AM

Spain coronavirus cases continue to rise as army deployed in Madrid

Spanish troops will deploy to Madrid to enforce a strict new lockdown following thousands of residents taking to the streets in protest, reports James Badcock.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed to send in the army after a meeting on Monday with the regional governor, Isabel Diaz Ayuso. 

Local police control people's movement in a traffic checkpoint at the Puente de Vallecas neighbourhood, under partial lockdown, in Madrid, on September 21, 2020. - Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP
Local police control people’s movement in a traffic checkpoint at the Puente de Vallecas neighbourhood, under partial lockdown, in Madrid, on September 21, 2020. – Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP

Thousands of soldiers helped battle the outbreak during Spain’s first wave and they will return to the job as case number rises over 10,000 per day.

“We need help from the army for disinfection … and to strengthen local police and law enforcement,” Isabel Diaz Ayuso told a news briefing.

Madrid currently accounts for a third of new cases in Spain and it has registered 144 of 432 Covid-19 deaths in the past week, with some intensive care wards overwhelmed.

Read James’ full dispatch here.

10:56 AM

Keir Starmer speech sees Labour leader take aim at coronavirus response

Keir Starmer has taken aim at Boris Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, accusing the Government of “incompetence” which he argued was “holding Britain back”, writes Harry Yorke.

Branding the spread of the virus through care homes as a “national scandal”, he criticised the failure to establish a “serviceable” testing system and insisted that there was “nothing inevitable about a second lockdown.”

Sir Keir added that the coronavirus had exposed the “perilous state” of social care in the UK, which he described as a “disgrace to a rich nation.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer delivering his keynote speech during the party's online conference from the Danum Gallery, Library and Museum in Doncaster - Reuters/Pool
Labour leader Keir Starmer delivering his keynote speech during the party’s online conference from the Danum Gallery, Library and Museum in Doncaster – Reuters/Pool

He went on to say that a second national coronavirus lockdown would be a “Government failure, not an act of God”, warning that it could take an “immense toll on people’s physical and mental health and on the economy”.

10:48 AM

Rugby union news: Bath – Gloucester fixture to go ahead as planned today

Bath have confirmed that their test pilot event on Tuesday with 1,000 spectators in attendance is still set to go ahead as planned ahead of the government’s latest briefing on Covid-19, writes Ben Coles.

Bath face Gloucester at The Recreation Ground at 17:30 BST and will welcome fans back into the ground for the first time since March, with the club unaffected by Boris Johnson’s statement in the Commons, a club spokesperson informed Telegraph Sport.

Harlequins and Gloucester have previously hosted Gallagher Premiership matches with spectators, with crowds of 3,500 and 1,000 respectively attending those fixtures.

Jack Walker of Bath goes over to score the third try during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bath Rugby and Worcester Warriors at The Recreation Ground on September 09, 2020 in Bath, England. - Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Europe
Jack Walker of Bath goes over to score the third try during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bath Rugby and Worcester Warriors at The Recreation Ground on September 09, 2020 in Bath, England. – Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Europe

Tarquin McDonald, Bath’s chief executive, informed Telegraph Sport this week that while welcoming 1,000 supporters back into The Rec was a welcome boost for the club, in the long run admitting more fans into the grounds will be essential.

10:40 AM

Fans in stadiums on hold until further notice amid new measures

The Government has confirmed the return of crowds at sport has been “paused” indefinitely as part of new measures to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

The Premier League, Rugby Football Union and ECB were among more than 100 national and grassroots bodies to sign a letter pleading for more support ahead of restrictions to be announced by Boris Johnson later.

However Michael Gove said the planned return of crowds on October 1 was now impossible as a result of the risk of “mingling” between spectators.

Stadium staff wearing a protective face mask during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal FC and West Ham United in London, Britain - Will Oliver/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Stadium staff wearing a protective face mask during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal FC and West Ham United in London, Britain – Will Oliver/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

He also noted that the Government had faced criticism previously for allowing Champions League matches and the Cheltenham Festival to have crowds in the first fortnight of March, when the virus first spread out of control.

Mr Gove hinted that the Prime Minister could be willing to listen to bailout calls, and said “we’re looking at everything that we can do” to support athletes and clubs.

Tom Morgan has the story.

10:32 AM

‘Work from home if you can’ could lead to 60-hour working week, predicts expert

The Government’s renewed push for employees to work from home if they can could be characterised by a culture of overworking, an expert has predicted.

Michael Gove this morning confirmed that the Government will encourage staff to work from their homes “if it is possible” for them to do so.

Mr Gove told Sky that the latest changes are “reluctant steps but they are absolutely necessary”.

However Dr Christine Grant, the deputy head of the school of psychological, social and behavioural science at Coventry University, warned that this messaging could have unintended and damaging consequences.

“In some occupations we do over-work anyway, whether you’re in the office or otherwise”, said Dr Grant.

“I do think home working at 37.5 hours a week is quite unlikely. Lots of people I have surveyed go up to 60 hours easily, working 12-hour days – it’s almost the norm.

“Some people love it (home working) and have found this brilliant, others not so and want it all to end.”

10:18 AM

Nicola Sturgeon to announce new restrictions in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce new measures at Holyrood to tackle the spread of coronavirus across Scotland.

The Scottish First Minister has said she will decide on further restrictions with her ministers following a Cobra meeting this morning.

It comes after four chief medical officers across the UK nations decided that the Covid-19 alert level should be raised to four.

The First Minister previously said coronavirus is spreading again in Scotland and “further and urgent action” is needed to stop the increase, warning if left unchecked it will lead to more cases, people in hospital and deaths.

She said the Scottish Government is prepared to introduce “a package of additional measures” but will aim to avoid a full-scale lockdown such as the one imposed in March.

Ms Sturgeon will set out the measures to MSPs in Parliament from 2.20pm on Tuesday and will make a televised statement at 8.05pm on the BBC after remarks from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

09:33 AM

Bank of England pledges to support business

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said the rise in Covid-19 cases “reinforces the downside risks” to the economy, but stressed policymakers would do everything in their powers to support the country.

Speaking on a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) webinar, Mr Bailey said: “The latest news, that we are seeing a very unfortunate, faster return of Covid-19 is extremely difficult news for all of us and the whole country.

“That does reinforce the downside risks we have in our forecasts.

“The Bank of England will do everything we can do within our remit and powers to support the businesses and people of this country and we will do that.”

 

09:17 AM

Northern Ireland could return to full lockdown

Stormont’s leaders have raised the prospect of Northern Ireland having to re-enter a period of full coronavirus lockdown.

As the region prepared for the introduction of fresh restrictions on domestic gatherings at 6pm on Tuesday, First Minister Arlene Foster said a two-week period of lockdown to try to halt the spread of the virus – a so-called circuit breaker – could not be ruled out.

“I haven’t ruled it out, I don’t rule it out at all,” she said.

Mrs Foster urged the public to work together so such a move could be avoided.

Arlene Foster - Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye
Arlene Foster – Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said a two-week lockdown is something the devolved executive would have to consider.

“I think the notion of a potential circuit breaker has to be something that we absolutely have in the mix,” she said.

“We have always said we will step forward and step back according to the virus spread, so initiatives such as that is certainly something that we would have to consider.”

Ms O’Neill said ministers would also be considering whether to introduce early closing time for pubs.

She said replicating the 10pm curfew being introduced in England would be “fair enough” to consider.

08:58 AM

New ONS data in this morning

Seven in 10 deaths of working-age adults involving coronavirus between March 9 and June 30 were likely to be the result of an infection acquired before lockdown, new figures show.

There were 5,330 deaths involving Covid-19 of 20-64-year-olds in England and Wales during this period, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Of these, 72%, or 3,839 deaths, occurred on or before April 25 and are considered likely to be as a result of an infection acquired before lockdown.

The ONS assumption is based on evidence that the maximum time from infection to symptom onset is 14 days, and there are around 20 days on average from symptom onset to death.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, the number of confirmed UK cases has passed 398,625, while the total number of deaths is 41,788.

08:43 AM

A recap of this morning’s political developments

Boris Johnson has been forced to abandon his drive to get Britons back to the workplace as he prepares to announce new restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Pubs, bars and restaurants in England will be ordered to close by 10pm each night from Thursday, a move which has angered a hospitality industry already battered by the pandemic.

The Prime Minister will face MPs, including Tories, who are uneasy about the way the Government has imposed restrictions, before an address to the nation on Tuesday evening.

He will outline other measures to stop the spread of Covid-19, which will also restrict the hospitality sector to table service only.

Boris Johnson - HANNAH MCKAY / Reuters
Boris Johnson – HANNAH MCKAY / Reuters

Plans for a partial return of sports fans to stadiums from October 1 have been “paused”.

Mr Johnson will emphasise the need for people to follow social-distancing guidance, wear face coverings and wash their hands regularly.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove accepted that the Government’s call for people to return to the workplace, a measure seen as critical for the survival of cafes and other businesses which rely on commuters and office workers, had been dropped.

He said there was a “shift in emphasis”, telling Sky News: “If it is possible for people to work from home then we would encourage them to do so.”

08:14 AM

Theatre forgotten by the Government, says Andrew Lloyd Webber

Commercial theatre will not survive unless the Government “steps up to the plate,” Andrew Lloyd Webber has said.

He told Good Morning Britain: “I really don’t think commercial theatre can survive unless the Government does now step up to the plate and give it a little bit of help.

“I have noticed over the years, in this country, commercial theatre has been way down the food chain as far as governments have been concerned.

“They’re always going on about the film industry….they support television…Does theatre get a look in it? No.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber - Rii Schroer
Andrew Lloyd Webber – Rii Schroer

 

07:55 AM

You can continue to drink with friends at home

Michael Gove said: “The 10pm closing time is not the only measure the Prime Minister will be announcing later.

“It’s part of a package of measures.

“But, the evidence is that social mixing can encourage the spread of the virus.”

Asked if a group of six people could leave a pub at 10pm and carry on drinking at a house, Mr Gove said: “It is the case that with the ‘Rule Of Six’ you can have six people in a social gathering, yes, but the steps that we are taking here reflect some of the evidence that has been gathered from those parts of the country where these restrictions have already been put in place in order to ensure that we restrict social mixing.”

Mr Gove said the ‘Rule Of Six’ would stay in place.

07:46 AM

Bad news for sports fans

Plans for a partial return of sports fans to stadiums from October 1 have been “paused”, according to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

“It is the case that we’ve been piloting some open air venues, and we do want to be able in due course to allow people to return to watch football and other sporting events,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“But it is the case that we just need to be cautious at the moment and I think a mass reopening at this stage wouldn’t be appropriate.”

Wolverhampton Wanderers' Raul Jimenez scores - Pool via REUTERS/Stu Forster
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Raul Jimenez scores – Pool via REUTERS/Stu Forster

He added: “It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans.

“We’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme. But what we do want to do is to make sure that as and when circumstances allow, (we) get more people back.”

07:32 AM

No time span for new restrictions

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove was unable to say how long the new coronavirus measures are expected to last.

“What we hope is we can take appropriate steps now, which mean that if we succeed in beating back the virus, then we will in the future be able to progressively relax them,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“But what I can’t do is predict with absolute certainty.”

Pressed on whether it would be months or weeks, Mr Gove said: “It is the case, as Professor Vallance and Chris Whitty pointed out yesterday, that we’re going to have a challenging next six months.”

Michael Gove - AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Michael Gove – AP Photo/Frank Augstein

“If people can work from home, they should,” he added.

“But I stress that it’s very important that those people whose jobs require them to be in a specific workplace do so.”

He added that it was not a case of “revisiting the days at the beginning of our response to this virus” as “workplaces are safer”, adding: “But one of the risks that we have to face is that social mixing overall contributes to the spread of the virus.

“So as much as we can restrain that as possible at this stage, the better for all of us and for public health.”

07:21 AM

Sport, education and hospitality all in danger

Professor Semple was asked if he government just announces a 10pm curfew and nothing more, will it be enough?

“No, it’s not going to be,” he said. 

“There are several sectors of society which will need to increase their restrictions, unfortunately. But it is necessary now because we are starting to see a rise in cases. 

“We are going to have to see reductions at sporting events, and that’s going to hit many of us hard because we enjoy the football, boxing and other activities, particularly in the North West of England.

“We are likely to see an increase in restrictions on the hospitality sector that go beyond the 10pm curfew and table service. I think that is very likely.

“The provision of higher and further education is likely to move to a more online service, many of which have done so.”

07:19 AM

Rule of six ‘does not go far enough’

Professor Calum Semple, from the University of Liverpool is a SAGE advisor.

He has given a grim outlook on BBC Radio 4.

“Is the rule of six enough to stick with for the time being?” he was asked.

“I don’t really think so,” Prof Semple replied. 

“And I’m sorry to say it’s going to hurt people the most. I think we will go to a stage where we are restricting people to not mixing between households.

“I think that the rule of six has been tried and has not had time to kick in yet, but based on the numbers I’m seeing, it isn’t going far enough.”

Prof Semple was asked if other scientists thought the same.

“The epidemiologists and scientists that I work with think the time to act is now,” Prof Semple said.

“We are in a serious situation and the numbers are rising and tracking the current worst case scenario, so there is significant anxiety amongst the scientific community.”

07:00 AM

Hospitality sector on ‘life support’

Andy Wood, chief executive Adnams brewery has been on Radio 4 and warned that that the early closing of pubs may not actually help the situation.

“I think we’re into marginal gains here with  table service and a 10pm curfew. There is a real threat here that people will move on to house parties and cause this spike to continue.

“The sector had done a great job in July and August and we didn’t see a spike by and large. The industry has been heavily compliant with  what Government says.

“Of course we recognise that the public health message has to come first.”

Andy Wood, CEO of Adnams
Andy Wood, CEO of Adnams

I think it seems incongruous that we have to impact one part of the economy to open up other bits of economic activity.

“At Adnams and other companies in the sector we must remember that businesses are still on life support. We’ve had the furlough scheme, business rate relief, bounceback loans, VAT cuts, the Chancellors ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ – which seemed to be very successful. All these measures are trying to keep the industry on life support.

06:36 AM

‘We need to act’ says Gove

Michael Gove says the Government is taking “reluctant steps” with the new coronavirus measures, but added that they are “absolutely necessary”.

“There will be more details that the Prime Minister will spell out, and again, one of the points that he’ll make is that no one wants to do these things, no one wants to take these steps,” he told Sky News.

“Because as we were reminded yesterday, and as you’ve been reporting, the rate of infection is increasing, the number of people going to hospital is increasing, and therefore we need to act.”

06:24 AM

Michael Gove pushing ‘work from home’ message

The Cabinet Office minister says there will be a “shift in emphasis” on working from home in the new coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Gove says: “If is is possible to work from home we would encourage them to do so.”

When asked if it is still the plan to have 80 per cent of staff back in Whitehall, Mr Gove says: “No”

This was trailed last night, and is being pushed this morning.

Mr Gove tells Sky’s Kay Burley that the announcements today are “reluctant steps but they are absolutely necessary.” 

 

06:00 AM

Money needed for sport to stave off a ‘lost generation of activity’

The leaders of more than 100 sports bodies have reportedly written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson requesting emergency funds to stave off a “lost generation of activity”.

According to a letter reportedly seen by BBC Sport, the group warns the future of the sector is “perilous” and urges the Government to provide a “sports recovery fund” in order to help the industry endure the prolonged effects of the pandemic.

Players in action during an intra club match at Newtown Linford Cricket Club, Leicestershire - Joe Giddens/PA
Players in action during an intra club match at Newtown Linford Cricket Club, Leicestershire – Joe Giddens/PA

The letter, written by organisations including the Football Association, Premier League, Rugby Football Union and England and Wales Cricket Board, reportedly states: “We require a comprehensive support package for the sport and physical sector to aid its recovery.

“This package must combine investment, tax incentives, and regulatory reform.

“Covid-19 has undermined our commercial revenue streams with both stadiums and leisure facilities closed or greatly reduced in capacity. The impact of this will potentially lead to a lost generation of sport and activity.”

05:26 AM

Catching flu and Covid-19 at same time almost doubles risk of death

Catching flu at the same time as Covid-19 nearly doubles the risk of death from the virus, Public Health England (PHE) has said.

A new study of hospital patients who contracted both diseases from January to April this year found a 43 per cent mortality rate compared to 23 per in people who caught coronavirus alone.

Although the high death tolls for both cohorts reflects the vulnerable status of those patients, officials are warning that anyone who gets both flu and coronavirus at once could be in “serious trouble”.

PHE also highlighted the risk of being hospitalised by influenza and then catching Covid-19 from other patients or staff.

Read the full story

Read more: Coronavirus vs flu and colds: How symptoms compare to Covid-19

04:29 AM

South Korea suspends free flue shot programme

South Korea suspended free flu shots on Tuesday after reports of problems in storing the vaccinations during transportation, disrupting plans to pre-emptively ease the burden on a healthcare system already strained by coronavirus outbreaks.

The country, which has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases since August, planned to procure 20 per cent more flu vaccines for the winter than the previous year to jab 30 million people. It had planned to start free inoculation on Tuesday for some 19 million eligible people.

The head of South Korea’s disease prevention agency said on Tuesday that some doses of the vaccine, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility.

It was not immediately known how many doses were affected, and authorities are looking into the entire batch of five million doses that were scheduled for distribution on Tuesday.

A sculpture of brother and sister is pictured with protective masks on, as people stroll in a park in Seoul - Reuters
A sculpture of brother and sister is pictured with protective masks on, as people stroll in a park in Seoul – Reuters

03:37 AM

Cases in Australia’s hotspot double, elsewhere restrictions to be eased

Australia’s virus hotspot of Victoria on Tuesday reported a more than doubling in new infections likely as a result of increased testing, while states elsewhere in the country said border restrictions would be relaxed as case numbers dwindled.

Officials said the northeastern state of Queensland would open its borders to parts of neighbouring New South Wales amid growing confidence that Australia’s second wave of infections has been contained.

NSW has maintained new daily infections in the single-digits since Sept. 11, reporting only two cases in the past 24 hours, both of which were overseas travellers already in quarantine.

Queensland had no new cases and South Australia has not reported a new case in close to two weeks.

Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed
Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed

03:03 AM

Mexico’s confirmed cases nears 700,000

Mexico closed in on a total of 700,000 confirmed cases on Monday, though authorities acknowledge the true number of infections in the country ranked No. 6 in Covid-19 cases globally is higher.

Mexico has the fourth highest number of deaths attributed to the pandemic.

On Sunday, the health ministry reported 3,542 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 697,663 as well as a cumulative death toll of 73,493.

The monument of Tezozomoc is seen with a face mask that reads 'For My Country' in Mexico City - Reuters
The monument of Tezozomoc is seen with a face mask that reads ‘For My Country’ in Mexico City – Reuters

02:15 AM

Pub curfew scheme ‘from random policy generator’

The Prime Minister is this evening set to tell the British people that there will be a 10pm curfew in pubs from Thursday evening. 

Boris Johnson is announcing new measures because the UK’s coronavirus cases are surging. 

But the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank said the plans would be “devastating to the hospitality sector”. Christopher Snowdon, the IEA’s head of lifestyle economics, said: “A 10pm closing time for all pubs, bars and other hospitality seems to have emerged from a random policy generator.

“While mandatory table service has been part of the successful Swedish approach and may have merit, the new closing time will be devastating to a hospitality sector that was already suffering after the first lockdown.

“The Government should publish the evidence upon which this decision was based.”

Read more: What time is Boris Johnson’s speech today and what will he say?

The Prime Minister will address the nation this evening - GETTY IMAGES
The Prime Minister will address the nation this evening – GETTY IMAGES

01:50 AM

Daily tests ‘may not be available on the NHS’

Daily tests for Covid-19 which would allow people to get their lives back to normal would not be available on the NHS, the Government’s head of testing has said.

Dido Harding, who runs the NHS’s much-criticised test and trace system, suggested in comments reported by the i newspaper that companies and individuals could be forced to pay for rapid turnaround coronavirus tests as the “cost of doing business” when they become available.

Baroness Harding said those without symptoms might choose to foot the bill for self-administered tests to act as a kind of Covid-19 passport to allow them to take part in non-socially distanced activities

Earlier this month, it emerged the Government is considering shelling out as much as £100 billion on a programme dubbed “Operation Moonshot” to deliver up to 10 million tests every day.

Read more: Britons ‘may have to pay for their own tests’

01:12 AM

‘Johnson must show he has a plan’

Boris Johnson is expected to announce a plan today to get Britain’s surging coronavirus infections under control. But Julia Hartley-Brewer says No 10’s messages have been confusing and alarming:

It’s easy to criticise the Government’s chaotic communications but hiring the best PR agency in the business could not solve this problem. That’s because the real crisis is not in the presentation of their strategy, it’s the total absence of any strategy at all.

The Government’s plan to tackle coronavirus appears to be little more than “we must be seen to do something”. Even if that “something” is not merely useless but is even worse than doing nothing.

Read more: Julia Hartley-Brewer: The public needs more than Project Fear

12:17 AM

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