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Calls are intensifying for ministers to impose a national lockdown amid reports the Government expects the second coronavirus peak to be deadlier than the first.
Downing Street is said to be working off an internal analysis that predicts deaths peaking at a lower level than the first wave, but remaining at that level for months, according to The Telegraph.
It comes as pressure mounts on Boris Johnson to consider a circuit-breaker, after the UK recorded its highest daily Covid-19 death toll since May. One expert, Dr Zubaida Haque, renewed criticism of the Government for failing to implement the measures as advised by Sage scientists in September.
However, the Prime Minister is also under pressure to demonstrate he has a plan for taking the UK out of the lockdown. More than 50 Tory MPs demanded a « road map » out of restrictions, with local leaders in London joining the clamour for more transparency in decision making.
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Labour MP warns of pandemic’s mental health toll in her interview with The Standard.
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Dr Rosena Allin-Khan: Covid is a mental health crisis too
Evening StandardHer Balham boxing gym hasn’t fully reopened but Rosena Allin-Khan – Labour MP for Tooting, former deputy leadership candidate and NHS doctor – has already ordered her new pair of gloves. They’re red, “obviously”, and a symbol she is ready for the next surge of battle as the country enters its first winter fighting Covid-19.
Tiers 2 and 3 won’t stop Covid, says top scientist
Prof Neil Ferguson, the scientist whose modelling prompted the UK-wide lockdown in March, said that measures in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas are “unlikely to cause daily cases and deaths to fall rapidly”.
He said that modelling suggests that this could leave the country with “high levels” of Covid cases, demand on health care and deaths “until spring 2021”.
Prof Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said: “The concern at the moment is that even if the measures adopted in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas slow spread in the next few weeks, they are unlikely to cause daily cases and deaths to fall rapidly.
“Modelling from all the academic groups informing Sage suggests that this could leave the country with high levels of Covid circulation, healthcare demand and mortality for several months, at least until spring 2021.”
The Eastenders star said Old Etonians have had their chance
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Danny Dyer: Old Etonians can’t run the UK… we need real people
Evening StandardDanny Dyer has called for people with « real lives » to be in Parliament, saying the pandemic has proved that Old Etonians « can’t run this country ». The 43-year-old said it is now time for “working-class people” who are « in touch with reality » to be given responsibility for how the UK is run. The EastEnders actor added that the “little group” from « the same school in the same class » have had their chance in power. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a former pupil at Eton.
Britain turns digital during pandemic
Crossbench peer Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho spoke about the “rapid acceleration through digital” during the pandemic.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is no doubt that there will be job creation in these areas and if you look at the companies that have grown most during this period of time, they are technology companies.
“You think about the rapid growth of Amazon for example, and it’s inevitable that this is going to just be more and more of a trend.”
She added: “It’s very important that we focus on the right skills and training for young people to be able to take up these opportunities in the UK.”
New employment prospects even worse than 2008
Conservative peer Lord (David) Willetts said the prospects now for finding new employment once someone became unemployed was “even worse” than after the 2008 financial crash.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It looks as if young people have been worst affected. The furloughing scheme, actually about one in five young people who have been on the furlough scheme have gone on to lose their jobs… compared with one in 10 overall.
“What we pinpoint as the key reason why the virus is so bad in the jobs market at the moment is that compared with previous recessions the real slowdown is in the number of new jobs that people are moving into… once you become unemployed… finding new employment looks like it’s even worse than it was, for example, after the financial crash.”
Too early to set out Christmas guidelines, says minister
Environment Secretary George Eustice said it is “far too early” to set out guidelines about Christmas.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a rapidly developing situation and we are making judgments all the time about what restrictions might be needed and what’s appropriate to have as restrictions in a particular area.
“It’s far too early to say exactly where things will be by Christmas, but the Prime Minister’s made clear he wants people to be able to have a Christmas that’s as close to possible as normal.”
He added: “We should set our guidelines, not as the Lib Dems say based on Christmas is coming, we should set our guidelines based on the epidemiology of this virus and follow the science and respond to emerging situations in a proportionate way.
“And that’s what we’re doing, and it’s too early I’m afraid to say exactly what the situation will be by Christmas, but we do understand people want to have a Christmas that’s as close as possible to normal and to meet family and to come together.
“It’s an important family occasion and we understand that and the PM’s clear he wants to try to support that.”
Environment secretary says national lockdown ‘not appropriate’
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the Government has introduced tiered restrictions for local areas in a “timely way” and a national lockdown is “not appropriate”.
Speaking on Times Radio on Wednesday morning, he said: “In some ways we’ve always anticipated that there would be a second spike.
“That’s why we have been monitoring the situation closely since September, introducing, in a timely way, restrictions that are appropriate to the level of prevalence in particular parts of the country with these three different levels of intervention.
“And we’re adding to that all the time, so yesterday Warrington was put into the very high risk area, and there’s discussions now about Nottingham.
“So we’re trying to intervene in things in a proportionate way across the country, but we don’t think it’s appropriate to have a national lockdown, because there’s parts of the country, like Cornwall, where the incidence of the disease is actually very low.”
Yorkshire hospital suspends non-urgent surgery for two weeks
Airedale Hospital, near Keighley, said it is suspending non-urgent surgery for two weeks.
It said in a statement: “We are seeing increasing demand on the hospital which is in turn meaning that our inpatient beds are at capacity.
“As a result, and as per our escalation plans, we have taken the decision to postpone any elective surgery that needs an overnight stay. This comes into effect immediately, for the next two weeks.
“Urgent and emergency cases and cancer surgery will be carrying on as normal.”
The hospital added: “Our day case activity will also continue for now, with our teams ensuring we’re working on the basis of clinical priority.
“We know many people waiting for treatment will be disappointed or worried, and each speciality will be contacting anyone who is affected.
“This is not a decision we take lightly, but is necessary to ensure that we can continue to care for the patients who need us most.”
High cases will still lead to more deaths despite improvements in treatment, says Sage member
Professor Sir Mark Walport said: “The numbers speak for themselves.”
The Sage member told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The number of cases is rising very significantly – it was 22,800 on 27 October and the seven-day average was just over 22,000, so there are an awful lot of cases.
“One of the differences of course is that we are better at looking after people with coronavirus now and so hopefully the case fatality rate will be lower than it was in the first wave, but at the end of the day the fatality rate, the number of people who die is a product of the number of people who are infected and their vulnerability.”
He added: “The numbers of deaths are rising, we can see from other countries. It is for the Government as policy-makers to decide how to manage that.”
25,000 people could be in hospital by end of November
Asked if it is not unrealistic to think of 25,000 people being in hospital by the end of November, Sage member Professor Sir Mark Walport said: “It’s certainly not unrealistic to think about that.”
On hospital admissions, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “France, which has a very similar population to us, currently has about 16,000 people in hospital, it’s got 2,500 in intensive care beds compared with 852 here, and roughly half the ICU beds in France are occupied; we’re seeing similar things in Spain.
“And these are in spite of these countries taking strong measures as well.
“So, the answer is that with our current measures, which are similar but with variations in different parts of Europe, there’s still evidence that it’s not – there isn’t as much social distancing as there were when we clamped down on the first wave and so we know that the risk is significant that cases will continue to grow.”
Labour call for rapid testing techniques
Mr Ashworth added that the Labour Party has been calling for the Government to “push further on new rapid-testing techniques” such as the swabs Boots chemists are offering which return results in 48 hours.
He said rapid testing is being piloted at universities across the country who are testing their students.
The shadow health secretary said: “Why not work with these universities and invest in these universities, and scale up the manufacture of these rapid tests.
“And what that test is, by the way, is a test for you to do reasonably regularly if you’re asymptomatic, so you’ll find out if you’re infectious.”
He added the pilot tests are designed for asymptomatic people to take regularly, before taking a “gold standard” test to confirm if they return a positive result.
Test and trace failure has led to Government losing control of virus, says shadow health secretary
Jonathan Ashworth told Times Radio the Government’s “unforgivable” failure to fix the test and trace system has led them to “lose control of the virus” for a second time.
The shadow health secretary said: “We and the scientists warned them back before the summer that if you cannot get the basics right around your test and tracing system… you lose control of the virus.
“And sadly, here we are, all these months later, where the Government quite evidently has lost control of the virus.
“At the moment, one of our most important weapons is testing and tracing, and the Government’s inability to fix that I think is really quite unforgivable.”
Mr Ashworth suggested “significant changes” which could be made “relatively quickly” like giving more resources to public health teams and authorities to take charge of the system, and “retrospective tracing at scale” which involves identifying where people first got the virus.
“The call centre approach that we’re using doesn’t work effectively,” he said.
68 per cent of people feel lonely amid restrictions, Snapchat study finds
The coronavirus lockdown and social distancing measures have caused an increase in loneliness among people in the UK, Snapchat’s latest Friendship Report suggests.
The social media platform’s second annual report into the nature of friendship found that 68 per cent of Britons feel lonely at times, up from 61 per cent before the pandemic.
The study, which involved 30,000 people, found that nearly half of those asked (49 per cent) said the lack of contact with friends was a key reason they felt more lonely and a third said social distancing had weakened their relationships with friends.
To try and address this, the study found that many had turned to digital tools to help them stay in touch. 64 per cent said they were using online communication platforms more now than before the Covid-19 outbreak
Government must act quickly to save Christmas, says shadow health secretary
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government’s failure to use the half-term for a circuit-breaker lockdown means they now need to “do something quickly to save Christmas”.
Mr Ashworth said the Government have “lost a window of opportunity” for a national lockdown over the holidays, which its scientific advisers and the Labour Party had been requesting for “two weeks or so”.
Speaking on Times Radio on Wednesday morning, he said Government sources are planning for a Tier 3 lockdown in most areas of the country “at some point in November”.
When asked if he thought families would be able to meet in groups of more than six on Christmas Day, he said: “That’s in the hands of all of us, and in the hands of the decisions it (the Government) makes in the next week or so about what they’re going to do to get on top of this virus.
“I think because they’ve missed this window of opportunity over the half term, I’m worried now that what we’ll see is deeper, more drastic lockdown action over November and December, which sadly probably does put Christmas at risk.
“The Government have got to do something quickly to save Christmas for everybody, because we want people to have a family Christmas, and I think it would be awful if people didn’t have that.”
Heathrow Airport loses £1.5 billion in first nine months of 2020
Heathrow Airport said its losses widened to £1.5 billion in the first nine months of the year.
Passenger numbers between July and September were down by more than 84% compared with the same period in 2019.
Revenue fell by 72% to £239 million, while earnings before tax and interest dropped to £37 million.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Britain is falling behind because we’ve been too slow to embrace passenger testing. European leaders acted quicker and now their economies are reaping the benefits.
“Paris has overtaken Heathrow as Europe’s largest airport for the first time ever, and Frankfurt and Amsterdam are quickly gaining ground.
“Let’s make Britain a winner again. Bringing in pre-departure Covid tests and partnering with our US allies to open a pilot air bridge to America will kickstart our economic recovery and put the UK back ahead of our European rivals.”
Charles Michel calls for more efficiency in battle against virus
The situation in Europe, where coronavirus infections are surging, is « serious and alarming » and the bloc must be more efficient with testing, contact tracing, vaccine and quarantine policies, the EU Council President said.
« We need more efficiency in intercepting (the virus) before citizens infect each other. We need strong planning, otherwise we will have systematic lockdowns in coming months, » Charles Michel told Italian daily La Stampa in an interview published on Wednesday.
Michel said coordination was also needed to limit the « negative economic and social effects » of the pandemic, when asked whether Europe feared a wave of social unrest.
He added that the area will need to be prepared when vaccines become available. « It will not be easy to manage that phase. »
Lack of passenger testing blamed for Britain falling behind
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Heathrow overtaken by Paris as Europe’s busiest airport
Evening StandardHeathrow has been overtaken by Paris’s Charles de Gaulle for the first time as Europe’s busiest airport, its boss revealed today. Announcing losses of £1.5billion in the first nine months of 2020, a John Holland-Kaye said: “Britain is falling behind because we’ve been too slow to embrace passenger testing. European leaders acted quicker and now their economies are reaping the benefits. « Paris has overtaken Heathrow as Europe’s largest airport for the first time ever, and Frankfurt and Amsterdam are quickly gaining ground. Let’s make Britain a winner again.
Lib Dem leader calls for UK-wide plan for Christmas
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey has called for four-nation Covid planning in relation to Christmas, warning people face confusion and complexity over potential restrictions.
Suggesting a four-nation summit, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well because 2020 has been such a tough year for families across the UK, people losing loved ones, losing their jobs. People had been looking forward to Christmas and I think they’re increasingly worried they won’t be able to be with many of their families and friends at Christmas as normal.
“So we want the governments of the four nations to come together, to look ahead, to get ahead of the game and plan measures so that we can maximise the chances of Christmas being as near normal as possible and it means they’ve got to take steps now together and if they do then maybe Christmas won’t be cancelled.
He added: “We need to see a much greater co-ordination on, for example, what the rules for gatherings might be, what public transport arrangements may be, whether they’ve got to be expanded, for example, how the policy of getting students back to families will be.
“I think if they don’t come together there’s a danger that we’ll see confusion, we’ll see complexity and people won’t get a clear message.”
Merkel wants Germany to close all restaurants, bars, gyms, nightclubs, and cinemas
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants state premiers on Wednesday to agree to close all restaurants and bars from Nov. 4 in a bid to curb coronavirus infections but keep schools and nurseries open, a draft resolution seen by . showed.
Under the new restrictions people would only be able to go out in public with members of their own household and one other household, said the resolution. It said people would be punished if they broke the rule, but did not give further details.
It said an exponential increase in infections in almost all regions of Germany meant that many local health authorities could not track and trace all infections so it was necessary to significantly reduce contact between people now in the hope that extensive restrictions are not required over Christmas.
If the leaders of Germany’s 16 states agree to the draft during a telephone conference later on Wednesday, fitness studios, discos and cinemas will close along with theatres, opera houses and concert venues.
Local leaders in West Yorkshire call for Tier 3 lockdown in Kirklees
Local leaders in West Yorkshire have called for Kirklees to avoid being placed in Tier 3 restrictions as discussions continue with the Government over further action in the area.
A statement by Kirklees Council’s Outbreak Control Board, including Labour MPs Tracy Brabin and Barry Sheerman and Conservative MPs Jason McCartney and Mark Eastwood, as well as cross-party councillors, said Tier 3 rules would have a “devastating effect” on the economy and mental health.
The statement said: “The closure of our pubs and bars will have a devastating impact on our economy and people’s livelihoods, and we have not seen the evidence that this will directly impact on infection rates.
“We instead need to continue the work we are doing at a local level, on the ground, in our communities. We are already seeing positive results from this work, with Kirklees now having the lowest rates in West Yorkshire. We’re urging the Government to give us more resources to build on this.
It added: “We’re concerned about the mental health of people in Kirklees, many of whom have been under local restrictions since July. Preventing people from visiting each other’s gardens will be a big blow during what is already a very difficult time.
“We also do not feel comfortable agreeing for Kirklees to enter Tier 3 without any indication of how we get out of these restrictions and how long they will last.”
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