Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has won a Commons vote on the “rule of six”, despite anger at the government’s ability to bypass parliamentary scrutiny during the pandemic. MPs voted in favour by 287 votes to 17 – but 12 Tories rebelled and voted against the regulation.
Growing frustration with restrictions on freedom comes at a time when some experts are warning those crackdowns may have to become more stringent.
Speaking on BBC Newsnight on Tuesday, Professor John Edmunds said a return to national lockdown should come sooner rather than later.
The Sage adviser said: “We are starting to get to a point where we really will have to take really critical action otherwise we are going to run the risk of turning the National Health Service back into the national Covid service.
“These local restrictions that have been put in place in much of the north of England really haven’t been very effective. We need to take much more stringent measures, not just in the north of England, we need to do it countrywide, and bring the epidemic back under control.”
He was speaking after it became likely that new a local lockdown would be imposed in Nottingham, where the director of public health described a spike in cases as “significant and worrying”.
In the US, Donald Trump has continued to downplay the dangers of Covid-19, despite contracting it himself. He also called an abrupt halt to negotiations with Democrats on badly-needed new economic stimulus.
Hello and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic today.
Conrad Duncan6 October 2020 07:48
NHS races to track up to 50,000 contacts after ‘shambolic’ spreadsheet error
The NHS is racing to track up to 50,000 people who have been in contact with positive coronavirus cases following a “shambolic” spreadsheet error which led to thousands of infections going unreported last week.
Public Health England (PHE) revealed on Monday that an error related to the use of Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software had led to 15,841 positive test results not being included in the government’s official daily figures.
Recent data has shown non-complex Covid-19 cases tend to report an average of three close contacts, suggesting nearly 50,000 contacts could have been missed due to the error.
Health secretary Matt Hancock insisted that the new data had not substantially affected the government’s assessment of the UK’s Covid-19 epidemic, but admitted the incident “should never have happened”.
“The team have acted swiftly to minimise its impact and now it is critical that we work together to put this right, and to make sure that it never happens again,” he told MPs on Monday.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, warned the blunder had “put lives at risk”.
Conrad Duncan6 October 2020 08:05
WHO warns of significant increase in ‘coronavirus fatigue’ across Europe
New data has shown significant increases in apathy towards coronavirus across Europe following more than six months of restrictions, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said fatigue, which has been measured in different ways across 27 countries, was “now estimated to have reached over 60 per cent” of the population in some places.
The health expert suggested regular community consultation, with local authorities as well as “expertise beyond the medical and public health sectors”, should be promoted.
He said there had been positive responses when Scandinavian countries asked the public to help devise “reasonable guidance” for the pandemic.
“Citizens are at the heart of a solution to the pandemic and policymakers should treat them as such,” Dr Kluge added.
New ways of meeting with friends and family are also to be encouraged, with the expert citing the example of how community groups found safe ways of breaking the fast during Ramadan by doing so virtually or with delivered meals for distanced celebrations.
Conrad Duncan6 October 2020 08:15
Expected announcement on testing for travellers is ‘step in the right direction’, Virgin Atlantic head says
An expected government announcement on coronavirus testing for international travellers has been welcomed as a “step in the right direction” by the chief executive of Virgin Atlantic.
Shai Weiss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday that further “swift action” was needed to protect the 500,000 jobs in the UK which rely on aviation.
“We are suggesting testing pre-departure as the way to go to free up the need for this quarantine and get passengers moving freely,” Mr Weiss said.
“We welcome this potential news from the government but further swift action is required if we are to save the 500,000 jobs which rely on travel and aviation in the United Kingdom.
“And of course our economy needs to get going and the only way it can take off is for the free movement of goods and people between countries.”
Conrad Duncan6 October 2020 08:24
US: Dr Fauci warns Trump’s condition could reverse after coronavirus treatment
Donald Trump returned to the White House last night after several days in hospital with coronavirus as his top infectious disease expert warned his health could worsen again.
Dr Anthony Fauci told CNN that it was “still early” in Mr Trump’s recovery and noted it was possible that there could be a “reversal” in his condition.
Our reporter, Mayank Aggarwal, has the full story below:
Conrad Duncan6 October 2020 08:32
Sunak questioned over Excel blunder with coronavirus testing data
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been questioned over why the government was using Microsoft’s Excel software to manage coronavirus cases after an error led to thousands of infections going unreported.
Mr Sunak insisted experts had been involved in the creation of the system for managing cases, which has been described as “shambolic”.
You can find his comments below:
Conrad Duncan6 October 2020 08:41
MPs to debate perilous state of UK music scene during pandemic
MPs are set to highlight the plight of the UK’s coronavirus-ravaged music industry during a debate in parliament today.
It comes as the industry steps up its calls for the government to help the sector, with industry body UK Music warning the pandemic has wiped out at least £900m of the £1.1bn in revenue from live music expected in 2020.
“As neighbourhoods and local economies look to recover from the pandemic it is vital to consider the impact that theatres, music venues and other cultural attractions have on their communities, both in terms of supporting finances and other business by providing jobs and footfall, but also more widely in terms of community benefit and well-being,” Nickie Aiken, the Conservative MP who secured the debate, said.
The industry is calling for more assistance from the government, as many music events cannot break even due to social distancing rules.
UK Music wants an extension of VAT and business rate reliefs, an extension to protection from eviction and rent breaks for music spaces to be considered.
It is also urging ministers to support a Covid-19 insurance vehicle to give live performances cover against cancellation forced by the virus.
Conrad Duncan6 October 2020 08:58
John Bercow condemns ‘shambolic’ Test and Trace system
Former Commons speaker John Bercow has condemned the government over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and described the Test and Trace system as “shambolic at best and non-existent at worst”.
The former Tory MP told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that Boris Johnson’s government did not believe in accountability and dismissed suggestions that the prime minister could resign.
“If the prime minister is not going to demand the resignation of the [education secretary] after the exams fiasco over which he presided, if he’s not going to ask for the resignation of the health secretary despite the fiasco over Covid which he has presided, manifestly he’s not going to resign himself,” Mr Bercow said.
“My critique of the government is that they have had months and months and months of mixed and misleading messages and, frankly, doing press conferences offering scripted soundbites and televised addresses to the nation or taking to Twitter are no substitute for accountability.”
Conrad Duncan6 October 2020 09:07
Our reporter, Chiara Giordano, has collected together some of the coronavirus stories you may have missed overnight – including the news that only half of the people with missing positive tests have been reached for contacts.
You can find more on the story below:
Conrad Duncan6 October 2020 09:12
Hospital beds must be ring-fenced for thousands on waiting lists, surgeons say
Hospital beds should be ring-fenced for patients waiting for routine surgeries this winter to prevent a second ‘tsunami of cancellations’ due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has said.
The RCS has warned NHS trusts will miss a target of returning to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels of surgery at the end of last month.
Our health correspondent, Shaun Lintern, has the full story below:
Conrad Duncan6 October 2020 09:28