Further nationwide restrictions have not been ruled out if coronavirus cases continue to soar two to three weeks after the imposition of Boris Johnson’s “rule of six”, government sources have confirmed, including the use of curfews in London to prevent late-night drinking.
As nearly 4,000 new cases were identified – the highest total since May – justice secretary Robert Buckland admitted the government faces “real challenges” with the testing system, suggesting schoolchildren and their parents would be the next testing priority after NHS and social care workers.
Meanwhile, the Royal Bolton Hospital has warned people to stay away from its emergency department unless they have a life-threatening illness or injury as surging coronavirus cases across the region begin to translate into rising hospital admissions, with the facility’s medical director suggesting failures in the testing scheme were responsible for the surge of people turning up to the hospital seeking tests.
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Testing ‘chaos’ could force widespread school closures, teachers and unions warn
Teachers and education unions have warned that schools across England and Wales are struggling to cope with a lack of coronavirus tests and the “increasingly out of control” situation could force widespread closures in the weeks ahead, Adam Forrest reports.
Thousands of pupils have been sent home in recent days after positive test results for the disease have forced hundreds of schools to ask classes or year group bubbles to self-isolate for 14 days.
Head teachers have told The Independent about the obstacles faced by school staff when trying to procure Covid-19 tests, and said teacher shortages were already causing “significant” problems in delivering lessons.
The difficulties in accessing tests and the long delays in receiving results were causing some teachers to be off for a week or more once they displayed symptoms – even if they eventually test negative, they said.
The Association of School and College Leaders said it has received emails from 264 schools and colleges who said they had staff or pupils who had symptoms and were struggling to find an available test.
Andy Gregory16 September 2020 18:54
R rate is ‘single most important fact’, Boris Johnson tells MPs
The prime minister has told the Commons Liaison Committee that the “single most important fact” in determining the state of coronavirus in the UK is the R value.
“At the moment, alas, alas, alas, the R – having been under one for so many months after the fantastic efforts of the British people – the R is above one,” Boris Johnson told MPs.
“That’s the most important thing we have to look at.”
Andy Gregory16 September 2020 18:33
Operating hours reduced at test sites in hardest-hit regions as demand soars
Hours of operation at several Covid-19 community test sites in Lancashire have been reduced after people from outside local areas joined the queues amid problems in the national testing system.
The walk-in locations were set up specifically for people living in areas of intervention where the infection rate is high, but demand has soared alongside national capacity issues.
The sites in Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Preston – all of which have some of the highest rates of infection in the country – had been open seven days a week from 10am to 3pm, but will now all be closed on Thursdays and Fridays.
“The demand on the community testing sites has increased enormously since schools reopened, due to lack of laboratory capacity in the national system and the restrictions on available appointments at other sites,” said Neil Jack, chair of the regional co-ordination group on the Lancashire Resilience Forum.
Andy Gregory16 September 2020 17:57
Some local infection rates more than double in a week – with Bolton soaring to 204 per 100,000 people
The rolling seven-day rate of new cases of Covid-19 for every local authority area in England, based on government testing figures, shows infection rates have more than doubled in a week in some high-risk parts of the country.
Bolton now has the highest rate of infection, with 204 cases per 100,000 people in the week until 13 September – up from 152 in the week prior.
Oadby & Wigston has the second highest rate, up from 52 to 136. Hyndburn is in third place, where the rate has risen from 64 to 132, with 107 new cases.
Cities recording sharp increases in their seven-day rates include:
– Liverpool (up from 56 to 106, with 530 new cases)
– Leicester (up from 60 to 89, with 318 new cases)
– Salford (up from 75 to 89, with 232 new cases)
– Newcastle upon Tyne (up from 51 to 64, with 194 new cases)
Additional reporting by PA
Andy Gregory16 September 2020 17:42
Jude Law says Contagion on-set doctors warned him about real-life pandemic during filming
Jude Law said during a remote appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon earlier this week that he and others on the set of Contagion were told by medical professionals that a pandemic was “a matter of when, not if”, Clemence Michallon reports.
“One of the most affecting memories or experiences on that film were the doctors and the virologists who were advising us,” he recounted. “…And they were all saying to us, ‘This is a matter of when, not if.’”
Law said he came out of the film with a heightened awareness of certain mechanisms that can contribute to the spread of a virus, such as touching one’s face or not washing one’s hands often enough
“All of that stuff was sort of embedded in me, but of course it slowly percolates away,” he added.
Andy Gregory16 September 2020 17:24
UK records highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since May
Some 3,991 people tested positive, bringing the total number of current UK cases to 378,219, Jane Dalton reports.
Another 20 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported, as of 9am on Wednesday. It makes the official death toll 41,684.
The number of people in hospital suffering Covid-19 is 901, up by 141 in 24 hours.
Andy Gregory16 September 2020 16:54
Freeze rents to avert mass evictions amid pandemic, urges Sadiq Khan
The mayor of London has asked to be given the powers to make it against the law for landlords to increase their rent for two years, arguing hundreds of thousands of renters in the capital are at risk of eviction because of the pandemic, Tim Wyatt reports.
The ban on evictions imposed at the start of lockdown is due to lapse at the end of this week, giving landlords their first opportunity to force out tenants who may be in rent arrears.
Research carried out by the Greater London Authority suggests as many as 500,000 private renters were potentially facing eviction notices having been unable to keep up with their rent during lockdown.
Andy Gregory16 September 2020 16:32
Government refuses to rule out nationwide restrictions
Government sources have confirmed nationwide restrictions on social activities have not been ruled out if coronavirus cases continue to surge two to three weeks after the imposition of Boris Johnson’s “rule of six”.
But ministers are said to be exceptionally reluctant to return to national lockdown and remain hopeful that any tightening of restrictions can be kept to a local level and tailored to the specific circumstances of each outbreak.
A senior official at Public Health England today indicated that this could include curfews in London to prevent drinkers socialising into the early hours, when observation of social distancing rules is likely to break down.
Chiara Giordano16 September 2020 15:54
US plans to distribute vaccine immediately after regulators authorise it
The US government plans to start distributing a Covid-19 vaccine within one day of regulatory authorisation as it plans for the possibility that a limited number of vaccine doses may be available at the end of the year.
Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defence today released documents on the distribution plans it is sending to the states and local public health officials.
The federal government will allocate vaccines for each state based on the critical populations recommended first for vaccination by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. That group is expected to include essential healthcare workers.
The document, called the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook, said “limited Covid-19 vaccine doses may be available by early November 2020 if a vaccine is authorised or licensed by FDA by that time, but Covid-19 vaccine supply may increase substantially in 2021”.
Officials also said they were working to make sure there was no cost to patients for the vaccine.
Chiara Giordano16 September 2020 15:36
Priority testing should be given to those in hotspots, says Greater Manchester mayor
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said those with a postcode in areas with the highest rates of coronavirus should be given priority when booking a coronavirus test.
He said: “On testing, we do need the government to prioritise areas with the highest numbers of cases for bookings through the national system.”
Mr Burnham added: “What we have here are systems which are not sufficiently attuned to the needs of local communities, systems that don’t prioritise areas of greatest need for testing to available capacity.”
He said tests had still been taking place in Greater Manchester this week but probably at a reduced capacity and there was increased demand.
Chiara Giordano16 September 2020 15:17